Depression is an inflammatory disorder. Pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) may play a pivotal role in the central nervous system (CNS) inflammation of depression. Here, we investigated IL-1β alteration in serum, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) of chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS)-exposed rats, a well-documented model of depression, and further explored the molecular mechanism by which CUMS procedure induced IL-1β-related CNS inflammation. We showed that 12-week CUMS procedure remarkably increased PFC IL-1β mRNA and protein levels in depressive-like behavior of rats, without significant alteration of serum and CSF IL-1β levels. We found that CUMS procedure significantly caused PFC nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) inflammatory pathway activation in rats. The intriguing finding in this study was the induced activation of nucleotide binding and oligomerization domain-like receptor family pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome with the increased IL-1β maturation in PFC of CUMS rats, suggesting a new grade of regulatory mechanism for IL-1β-related CNS inflammation. Moreover, microglial activation and astrocytic function impairment were observed in PFC of CUMS rats. The increased co-location of NLRP3 and ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule 1 (Iba1) protein expression supported that microglia in glial cells was the primary contributor for CUMS-induced PFC NLRP3 inflammasome activation in rats. These alterations in CUMS rats were restored by chronic treatment of the antidepressant fluoxetine, indicating that fluoxetine-mediated rat PFC IL-1β reduction involves both transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. These findings provide in vivo evidence that microglial NLRP3 inflammasome activation is a mediator of IL-1β-related CNS inflammation during chronic stress, and suggest a new therapeutic target for the prevention and treatment of depression.
Keywords: Chronic unpredictable mild stress; Depression; IL-1β-related CNS inflammation; NLRP3 inflammasome; Prefrontal cortex.
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