Interleukin-6 trans-signaling in the senescent mouse brain is involved in infection-related deficits in contextual fear conditioning

Michael D. Burton, Rodney W. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Excessive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the senescent brain in response to peripheral immune stimulation is thought to induce behavioral pathology, however, few studies have examined if the increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines is accompanied by an increase in cytokine signaling. Here, we focused on IL-6 as a prototypic pro-inflammatory cytokine and used phosphorylated STAT3 as a marker of IL-6 signaling. In an initial study, IL-6 mRNA and the magnitude and duration of STAT3 activation were increased in the hippocampus of senescent mice compared to adults after i.p. injection of LPS. The LPS-induced increase in STAT3 activity was ablated in aged IL-6 -/- mice, suggesting IL-6 is a key driver of STAT3 activity in the aged brain. To determine if IL-6 activated the classical or trans-signaling pathway, before receiving LPS i.p., aged mice were injected ICV with sgp130, an antagonist of the trans-signaling pathway. Importantly, the LPS-induced increases in both IL-6 and STAT3 activity in the hippocampus were inhibited by sgp130. To assess hippocampal function, aged mice were injected ICV with sgp130 and i.p. with LPS immediately after the acquisition phase of contextual fear conditioning, and immobility was assessed in the retention phase 48h later. LPS reduced immobility in aged mice, indicating immune activation interfered with memory consolidation. However, sgp130 blocked the deficits in contextual fear conditioning caused by LPS. Taken together, the results suggest IL-6 trans-signaling is increased in the senescent brain following peripheral LPS challenge and that sgp130 may protect against infection-related neuroinflammation and cognitive dysfunction in the aged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)732-738
Number of pages7
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Aging
  • Cognition
  • Hippocampus
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-6 receptor
  • Lipopolysaccharide
  • Mice
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Soluble gp130
  • Trans-signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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