Endogenous IL-1 in cognitive function and anxiety: a study in IL-1RI-/- mice

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 30;8(10):e78385. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078385. eCollection 2013.


Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a key pro-inflammatory cytokine, produced predominantly by peripheral immune cells but also by glia and some neuronal populations within the brain. Its signalling is mediated via the binding of IL-1α or IL-1β to the interleukin-1 type one receptor (IL-1RI). IL-1 plays a key role in inflammation-induced sickness behaviour, resulting in depressed locomotor activity, decreased exploration, reduced food and water intake and acute cognitive deficits. Conversely, IL-1 has also been suggested to facilitate hippocampal-dependent learning and memory: IL-1RI(-/-) mice have been reported to show deficits on tasks of visuospatial learning and memory. We sought to investigate whether there is a generalised hippocampal deficit in IL-1RI(-/-) animals. Therefore, in the current study we compared wildtype (WT) mice to IL-1RI(-/-) mice using a variety of hippocampal-dependent learning and memory tasks, as well as tests of anxiety and locomotor activity. We found no difference in performance of the IL-1RI(-/-) mice compared to WT mice in a T-maze working memory task. In addition, the IL-1RI(-/-) mice showed normal learning in various spatial reference memory tasks including the Y-maze and Morris mater maze, although there was a subtle deficit in choice behaviour in a spatial discrimination, beacon watermaze task. IL-1RI(-/-) mice also showed normal memory for visuospatial context in the contextual fear conditioning paradigm. In the open field, IL-1RI(-/-) mice showed a significant increase in distance travelled and rearing behaviour compared to the WT mice and in the elevated plus-maze spent more time in the open arms than did the WT animals. The data suggest that, contrary to prior studies, IL-1RI(-/-) mice are not robustly impaired on hippocampal-dependent memory and learning but do display open field hyperactivity and decreased anxiety compared to WT mice. The results argue for a careful evaluation of the roles of endogenous IL-1 in hippocampal and limbic system function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / metabolism*
  • Anxiety Disorders / metabolism*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Fear / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Illness Behavior / physiology
  • Interleukin-1 / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1 Type I / metabolism*


  • IL1R1 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1 Type I