Interferon-alpha treatment induces depression-like behaviour accompanied by elevated hippocampal quinolinic acid levels in rats

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Immunotherapy with the cytokine interferon-alpha (IFN-α) can induce symptoms of depression, and it is likely that the tryptophan-kynurenine pathway may be involved in this regard. In this study we investigated the effects of IFN-α on depression-like behaviour and central metabolites of the tryptophan-kynurenine pathway in rats. Secondly, we explored the modulating effects of an antidepressant (imipramine) and anti-inflammatory drug (celecoxib) on IFN-α-induced behavioural and pathophysiological changes in the brain. The following treatment groups were used: Control (saline), IFN-α (6×10(4) IU/kg s.c.), IFN-α + imipramine or IFN-α + celecoxib. Drugs were administered daily for 1 week. IFN-α treatment induced depression-like behaviour by increasing immobility in the forced swim test (FST), and decreased tryptophan levels in the brain. There was a trend for an increased kynurenine/tryptophan ratio, indicative of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) activation, and increased quinolinic acid in the hippocampus. Imipramine decreased immobility in the FST, but did not reverse the IFN-α-induced changes in the tryptophan-kynurenine pathway. There was a trend for celecoxib to decrease immobility and to reverse the IFN-α-induced increase in the kynurenine/tryptophan ratio. Thus, our study provides further evidence for IFN-α-induced depression-like behaviour through central changes of the tryptophan-kynurenine pathway.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Pages (from-to)166-172
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2015

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