Imipramine attenuates neuroinflammatory signaling and reverses stress-induced social avoidance

Karol Ramirez, Daniel T. Shea, Daniel B. McKim, Brenda F. Reader, John F. Sheridan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychosocial stress is associated with altered immunity, anxiety and depression. Previously we showed that repeated social defeat (RSD) promoted microglia activation and social avoidance behavior that persisted for 24. days after cessation of RSD. The aim of the present study was to determine if imipramine (a tricyclic antidepressant) would reverse RSD-induced. social avoidance and ameliorate neuroinflammatory responses. To test this, C57BL/6 mice were divided into treatment groups. One group from RSD and controls received daily injections of imipramine for 24. days, following 6 cycles of RSD. Two other groups were treated with saline. RSD mice spent significantly less time in the interaction zone when an aggressor was present in the cage. Administration of imipramine reversed social avoidance behavior, significantly increasing the interaction time, so that it was similar to that of control mice. Moreover, 24. days of imipramine treatment in RSD mice significantly decreased stress-induced mRNA levels for IL-6 in brain microglia. Following ex vivo LPS stimulation, microglia from mice exposed to RSD, had higher mRNA expression of IL-6, TNF-α, and IL-1β, and this was reversed by imipramine treatment. In a second experiment, imipramine was added to drinking water confirming the reversal of social avoidant behavior and decrease in mRNA expression of IL-6 in microglia. These data suggest that the antidepressant imipramine may exert its effect, in part, by down-regulating microglial activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-220
Number of pages9
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Imipramine
  • Microglia
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Social avoidance
  • Social defeat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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