Adenosine through the A2A adenosine receptor increases IL-1β in the brain contributing to anxiety

Gabriel S. Chiu, Patrick T. Darmody, John P. Walsh, Morgan L. Moon, Kristin A. Kwakwa, Julie K. Bray, Robert H. McCusker, Gregory G. Freund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anxiety is one of the most commonly reported psychiatric conditions, but its pathogenesis is poorly understood. Ailments associated with activation of the innate immune system, however, are increasingly linked to anxiety disorders. In adult male mice, we found that adenosine doubled caspase-1 activity in brain by a pathway reliant on ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channels, protein kinase A (PKA) and the A2A adenosine receptor (AR). In addition, adenosine-dependent activation of caspase-1 increased interleukin (IL)-1β in the brain by 2-fold. Peripheral administration of adenosine in wild-type (WT) mice led to a 2.3-fold increase in caspase-1 activity in the amygdala and to a 33% and 42% reduction in spontaneous locomotor activity and food intake, respectively, that were not observed in caspase-1 knockout (KO), IL-1 receptor type 1 (IL-1R1) KO and A2A AR KO mice or in mice administered a caspase-1 inhibitor centrally. Finally, adenosine administration increased anxiety-like behaviors in WT mice by 28% in the open field test and by 55% in the elevated zero-maze. Caspase-1 KO mice, IL-1R1 KO mice, A2A AR KO mice and WT mice treated with the KATP channel blocker, glyburide, were resistant to adenosine-induced anxiety-like behaviors. Thus, our results indicate that adenosine can act as an anxiogenic by activating caspase-1 and increasing IL-1β in the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-231
Number of pages14
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenosine receptor
  • Anxiety
  • Caspase-1
  • Interleukin-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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