Altered neuroimmunoendocrine communication during a condition of chronically increased brain corticotropin-releasing hormone drive

J M Reul, M S Labeur, G J Wiegers, A C Linthorst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Presently, it is clear that the brain, immune system, and endocrine system build a complex network of interactions at various levels. Inflammation, which may be regarded as a stressful challenge, initiates apart from immunological, autonomic, and neuroendocrine responses also profound behavioral (e.g., immobility, social disinterest) changes. Key mediators herein are corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and cytokines, such as interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta). Currently, the behavioral changes, collectively termed sickness behavior, are thought to be adaptive responses to support the body's efforts to fight the infection. Using in vivo microdialysis and biotelemetry in freely moving animals, we have studied the monoaminergic circuits in the brain implicated in the regulation of physiological and behavioral responses to a peripheral inflammatory challenge (see also chapter of Linthorst and Reul in this volume). To expand our insight into the relationship between hypersecretion of CRH and physiological and behavioral abnormalities associated with stress-related disorders, a series of experiments was conducted with long-term centrally CRH-infused rats. These rats showed reduced body weight gain, decreased food intake, elevated plasma ACTH and corticosterone levels, thymus involution and immunosuppression, but, paradoxically, enhanced IL-1 beta mRNA expression in spleen macrophages. After a peripheral endotoxic challenge on the seventh day of treatment, the CRH-infused rats produced aberrant (i.e., blunted and/or delayed) HPA axis, fever, behavioral, and hippocampal serotonergic responses. However, endotoxin-induced plasma IL-1 and IL-6 bioactivities were significantly enhanced in these animals. The data show that chronically elevated central CRH levels as occurring during chronic stress result in defective central nervous system and immune system responses to an acute (inflammatory) challenge. These observations provide evidence that chronic CRH hypersecretion is an important factor in the etiology of stress-related disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-55
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 1998


  • Animals
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Brain
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Inflammation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Neurosecretory Systems
  • Time Factors
  • Male
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Immune System
  • Stress, Physiological


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