Stress disorders such as depression and anxiety are associated with increases in the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), however, the source and functional relevance of this elevation remains unknown. Using a repeated social defeat stress model in mice, we find individual differences in the peripheral immune response to stress-measured by increased IL-6 release from leukocytes-that predicts stress susceptibility. Susceptible mice develop social avoidance and anhedonia, which are established measures of depression-like behavior in rodents. To understand whether leukocyte derived IL-6 is necessary and sufficient for the development of social avoidance and anhedonia, we generated bone marrow (BM) chimeras transplanted with stem cells from stress susceptible or IL-6 knockout (IL-6-/-) mice. Stress susceptible BM chimeras exhibit baseline anhedonia and increased stress-induced social avoidance, whereas IL-6-/- BM chimeras were resistant to the effects of stress on these behaviors. In addition, we have preliminary evidence that IL-6 may be acting within key brain reward regions, such as the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex, to mediate these behavioral effects. Together our work shows that pre-existing differences in stress responsive IL-6 release from leukocytes functionally contributes to depression-like behavioral phenotypes. In this application we will define the detailed mechanisms by which susceptible mice produce and release more IL-6. We will further define the functional relevance of such changes to development of depression-like behavior and test novel therapeutic strategies, such as bone marrow re-engineering to reduce stress susceptibility. We believe that this work holds promise for developing predictive diagnostic tests based on hyperactive IL-6 responses, as well as verification of important targets for novel antidepressant development.

Public Health Relevance

Depression and anxiety are associated with changes in the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6). However, it is still unclear whether systemic activation of immune cells, and subsequent release of IL-6, is necessary and sufficient for the expression of depression-like behavioral responses or whether it is simply an unrelated biomarker associated with the phenotype. In this proposal we show a functional role for leukocyte derived IL-6 in controlling depression like behaviors in rodents.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Project (R01)
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Molecular Neuropharmacology and Signaling Study Section (MNPS)
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Desmond, Nancy L
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Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
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Hodes, Georgia E; Pfau, Madeline L; Leboeuf, Marylene et al. (2014) Individual differences in the peripheral immune system promote resilience versus susceptibility to social stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:16136-41