Activation of the inflammatory immune response may provoke neuroendocrine and central neurochemical effects that are reminiscent of those elicited by traditional stressors, and when administered concurrently may have synergistic effects. The present investigation assessed whether a psychosocial stressor, comprising social disruption, would augment the effects of lipopolysaccharide in mice. It was indeed observed that the social disruption engendered by a period of 2-4 weeks of social isolation (but not 1-7 days of this treatment) followed by regrouping, enhanced the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS: 10 μg) in the provocation of sickness behavior, as well as plasma corticosterone, IL-6, TNF-α and IL-10 levels. Similar effects were not apparent with respect to IL-1β, IL-4, or IFN-γ. Synergy between LPS and other stressors (restraint, tail pinch, and loud noise) was not apparent with respect to sickness or plasma corticosterone, provisionally suggesting that social stressors, such as regrouping, may be more powerful or may engage unique neural or neuroendocrine circuits that favour synergistic outcomes. Within the CNS, the LPS and the regrouping stressor synergistically enhanced NE utilization within the prefrontal cortex, and additively influenced hippocampal NE utilization. In contrast to the effects on circulating cytokines, the LPS-induced elevation of IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α mRNA expression in the hippocampus, PFC and nucleus tractus solitarius was diminished in animals that had experienced the regrouping stressor. In view of the combined actions of LPS challenge and a social stressor, these data are interpreted as suggesting that models of depression based on immune activation ought to consider the stressor backdrop upon which immune challenges are imposed.

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Brain Behavior and Immunity
Stress & Pathology Lab

Gibb, J. (Julie), Hayley, S, Gandhi, R. (Reno), Poulter, M.O. (Michael O.), & Anisman, H. (2008). Synergistic and additive actions of a psychosocial stressor and endotoxin challenge: Circulating and brain cytokines, plasma corticosterone and behavioral changes in mice. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 22(4), 573–589. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2007.12.001