Prostaglandin E2 in Brain-mediated Illness Responses
Abstract: We are unceasingly exposed to potentially harmful microorganisms. The battle against threatening infectious agents includes activation of both the innate and of the adaptive immune systems. Illness responses are elicited and include inflammation, fever, decreased appetite, lethargy and increased sensitivity to painful stimuli in order to defeat invaders. While many of these signs of disease are controlled by the central nervous system, it has remained an enigma how signals from the peripheral immune system reach the brain through its blood-brain barrier, which precludes macromolecules, including cytokines, from diffusing into the brain parenchyma.Previous findings indicate the existence of a pathway across the blood-brain barrier, which includes binding of the cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) to its receptor in the brain vessels, thereby inducing the production of the prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) synthesizing enzymes cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2) and microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1 (mPGES-1), which ultimately synthesize PGE2. PGE2 subsequently binds to any of the four prostaglandin E2 (EP) -receptors. Previous results from our laboratory have suggested that this pathway plays a critical role in the febrile response to infectious stimuli. The present thesis aims at further investigating the molecular events underlying immune-to-brain signalling, with special emphasis on fever, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) -axis activation and anorexia and their connection to signalling molecules of the cytokine and prostaglandin families, respectively.In paper I, the molecular processes linking the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) and PGE2 in the febrile response were investigated. Both IL-6 and PGE2 have been shown to be critical players in the febrile response, although the molecular connections are not known, i.e. if IL-6 exerts its effects up- or downstream of PGE2. Mice deficient in IL-6 were unable to respond to bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) with a febrile response, but displayed similar induction of Cox-2 and mPGES-1, and similar concentrations of PGE2 in the cerebrospinal fluid as wild-type mice. Paradoxically, the IL-6 deficient mice responded with a dose-dependent elevation of body temperature in response to intracerebroventricularly injected PGE2. Furthermore, IL-6 per se was not pyrogenic when injected peripherally in mice, and did not cause increased levels of PGE2 in cerebrospinal fluid. IL-6 deficient mice were not refractory to the action of PGE2 because of excess production of some hypothermia-producing factor, since administration of a Cox-2 inhibitor in LPS-challenged IL-6 deficient mice did not unmask any hypothermic response, and neutralization of tumor necrosis factor ? (TNF?), associated with hypothermia, did not produce fever in LPS-challenged IL-6 deficient mice. These data indicate that IL-6 rather than exerting its effects up- or down-stream of PGE2 affects some process in parallel to PGE2, perhaps by influencing the diffusion and binding of PGE2 onto its target neurons.In papers II and III, we injected the proinflammatory cytokine IL-1? in free-fed wild-type mice, in mice with a deletion of the gene encoding mPGES-1, or in mice deficient in the EP1, EP2 and EP3. Food intake was continuously measured during their active period, revealing that mPGES-1 deficient mice were almost completely resistant to anorexia induced by IL-1?. However, all of the investigated EP receptor deficient mice exhibited a normal profound anorexic response to IL-1? challenge, suggesting that the EP4 is the critical receptor that mediates IL-1?-induced anorexia. We also investigated the role of mPGES-1 in anorexia induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in mPGES-1 deficient mice. The profound anorexic response after LPS-challenge was similar in mPGES-1 deficient and wild-type mice. To further investigate the anorectic behaviour after LPS injection, we pre-starved the animals for 22 hours before injecting them with LPS. In this paradigm, the anorexia was less profound in mPGES-1 knock-out mice. Our results suggest that while the inflammatory anorexia elicited by peripheral IL-1? seems largely to be dependent on mPGES-1-mediated PGE2 synthesis, similar to the febrile response, the LPS-induced anorexia is independent of this mechanism in free-fed mice but not in pre-starved animals.In papers IV and V, the role of prostanoids for the immune-induced HPA-axis response was investigated in mice after genetic deletion or pharmacological inhibition of prostanoid-synthesizing enzymes, including Cox-1, Cox-2, and mPGES-1. The immediate LPS-induced release of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone and corticosteroids was critically dependent on Cox-1 derived prostanoids and occurred independently of Cox-2 and mPGES-1 derived PGE2. In contrast, the delayed HPA-axis response was critically dependent on immune-induced PGE2, synthesized by Cox-2 and mPGES-1, and occurred independently of Cox-1 derived enzymes. In addition, in the mPGES-1 deficient mice, the synthesis of CRH hnRNA and mRNA was decreased in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus after LPS-challenge, indicating that the delayed hormone secretion was mediated by PGE2-induced gene-transcription of CRH in the hypothalamus. The expression of the c-fos gene and Fos protein, an index of synaptic activation, was maintained in the paraventricular nucleus and its brainstem afferents both after unselective and Cox-2 selective inhibition as well as in Cox-1, Cox-2, and mPGES-1 knock-out mice. This suggests that the immune-induced neuronal activation of autonomic relay nuclei occurs independently of prostanoid synthesis and that it is insufficient for eliciting stress hormone release.
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