Long-term intracerebroventricular corticotropin-releasing hormone administration induces distinct changes in rat splenocyte activation and cytokine expression

M S Labeur, E Arzt, G J Wiegers, F Holsboer, J M Reul

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

38 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of long-term corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) infusion in the lateral ventricle of the rat on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis parameters and on the immune system function were studied. Compared with infusion of vehicle, the CRH treatment produced a sustained overactivity of the HPA axis, as evidenced by elevated plasma ACTH and corticosterone levels, increased anterior pituitary POMC messenger RNA (mRNA) expression, and adrenal enlargement. Long-term CRH treatment also inhibited body weight gain and reduced thymus and spleen weight. In the CRH-treated animals, both Concanavalin A (Con A)-induced T lymphocyte proliferation and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced B lymphocyte mitogenesis was largely suppressed. Surprisingly, interleukin-2 (IL-2) levels were higher in supernatants of splenocyte cultures from CRH-treated rats than in those of control animals. However, IL-2 receptor alpha chain (IL-2R alpha) mRNA expression after Con A stimulation was highly suppressed in the CRH-treated animals. In addition, Northern blot analysis of RNA from splenocytes isolated from spleens of CRH-treated rats revealed a marked expression of IL-1 beta mRNA, in contrast to the barely detectable levels of this cytokine in control animals. Moreover, incubation of total splenocytes and spleen macrophages with LPS resulted in an enhanced induction of IL-1 beta mRNA in cells of CRH-treated rats compared with that of control animals. When adrenalectomized rats were treated with CRH or vehicle, the effects of the CRH treatment on T and B cell proliferation, IL-2 production, and IL-1 beta mRNA expression were abolished. Thus, a continuously increased HPA axis drive results in disparate changes in immune system function. Whether the observed changes in cytokine expression should be regarded as physiologically adaptive adjustments in support of immune function or as potentially pathological anomalies remains to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2678-88
Number of pages11
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1995


  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Cytokines
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-2
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Neuroimmunomodulation
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2
  • T-Lymphocytes


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