Depression is frequently associated with inflammation. Animal studies have shown that peripheral inflammation induces depressive-like behaviour, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. A distinction between sickness- and depressive-like behaviour has been proposed. We hypothesize that the behavioural distinction is due to changes in the central production of immune mediators. As a model of peripheral inflammation, we administered lipopolysaccharide (LPS) intraperitoneally daily for 4 days in rats. The effect of LPS on sickness- and depressive-like behaviour was assessed. We examined protein levels and mRNA expression of cytokines and cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes in serum, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and specific brain regions. Two hours post-LPS, the rats displayed sickness behaviour and cytokine levels were elevated in both serum and CSF. This was paralleled by specific alterations of mRNA transcription of IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α in frontal cortex, hippocampus and striatum. Twenty-four hours post-LPS the rats showed depressive-like behaviour and peripheral cytokine levels were back close to baseline. In contrast, the central transcription of IL-1β mRNA had increased even further, as well as IL-1β CSF levels. IL-6 and TNF-α transcription was unaltered compared to controls. COX enzymes were downregulated in the hippocampus during sickness behaviour and unaltered during depressive-like behaviour. Our results show for the first time that a peripheral immune challenge induces a region specific transcription of cytokines and COX-enzymes in the brain, at time-points corresponding to behavioural sickness and depression. When the peripheral inflammation and sickness behaviour had ceased, a production of proinflammatory cytokines remained within the brain parenchyma.
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