Interleukin-6 as a mechanism for the adverse effects of social stress on acute Theiler’s virus infection Academic Article uri icon


  • Prior exposure to social disruption stress (SDR) exacerbates both the acute and chronic phase of Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus infection (TMEV; [Johnson, R.R., Storts, R., Welsh, T.H., Jr., Welsh, C.J., Meagher, M.W., 2004. Social stress alters the severity of acute Theiler's virus infection. J. Neuroimmunol. 148, 74--85; Johnson, R.R., Prentice, T.W., Bridegam, P., Young, C.R., Steelman, A.J., Welsh, T.H., Welsh, C.J.R., Meagher, M.W., 2006. Social stress alters the severity and onset of the chronic phase of Theiler's virus infection. J. Neuroimmunol. 175, 39--51]). However, the neuroimmune mechanism(s) mediating this effect have not been determined. The present study examined whether stress-induced increases in the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) contributes to the adverse effects of SDR on acute TMEV infection. Experiment 1 demonstrated that SDR increases central and peripheral levels of IL-6 and that this effect is reversed by intracerebral ventricular infusion of neutralizing antibody to IL-6 prior to each of six SDR sessions. Although SDR reduced the sensitivity of spleen cells to the anti-inflammatory effects of corticosterone, the neutralizing antibody to IL-6 did not alter this effect. To investigate whether stress-induced increases in IL-6 contribute to the exacerbation of acute TMEV infection, Experiment 2 examined whether intracerebral administration of neutralizing antibody to IL-6 during SDR would prevent the subsequent exacerbation of acute TMEV infection. Experiment 3 then replaced the social stress with intracerebral infusion of IL-6 to assess sufficiency. As expected, prior exposure to SDR subsequently increased infection-related sickness behaviors, motor impairment, CNS viral titers, and CNS inflammation. These deleterious effects of SDR were either prevented or significantly attenuated by intracerebral infusion of neutralizing antibody to IL-6 during the stress exposure period. However, infusion of IL-6 alone did not mimic the adverse effects of SDR. We conclude that IL-6 is necessary but not sufficient to exacerbate acute TMEV infection.

author list (cited authors)

  • Meagher, M. W., Johnson, R. R., Young, E. E., Vichaya, E. G., Lunt, S., Hardin, E. A., Connor, M. A., & Welsh, C.

citation count

  • 28

publication date

  • June 2007