Interleukin-1 beta: a putative mediator of HPA axis hyperactivity in major depression?

Am J Psychiatry. 1993 Aug;150(8):1189-93. doi: 10.1176/ajp.150.8.1189.


Objective: There is extensive evidence that major depression, and particularly melancholia, is characterized by hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity as well as systemic immune activation, which may be accompanied by increased interleukin-1 beta production. Interleukin-1 beta is known to enhance HPA axis activity during an immune response. This study investigated whether interleukin-1 beta production is related to HPA axis activity in depressed subjects.

Method: The subjects were 28 inpatients with major or minor depression and 10 normal comparison subjects. The authors measured 1) the subjects' cortisol levels after an overnight 1-mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST) and 2) mitogen-stimulated supernatant interleukin-1 beta production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

Results: Statistically significant positive correlations between interleukin-1 beta production and post-DST cortisol values were found in the study group as a whole and in the depressed and normal subgroups separately.

Conclusions: It is suggested that constituents of the immune response (such as interleukin-1 beta) in major depression may contribute to HPA axis hyperfunction in that illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / immunology
  • Dexamethasone*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Interleukin-1 / blood*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocytes / chemistry
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Middle Aged


  • Interleukin-1
  • Dexamethasone
  • Hydrocortisone