Adverse effects of inflammation and stress on hippocampal synapses

This dense and highly-jargoned 2015 rodent study found:

“The suppression of BDNF [brain-derived neurotrophic factor] signaling, LTP [long-term potentiation], and memory may be driven by an increased sensitivity to IL-1β [the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin 1β] that occurs directly at synapses.”

The researchers reversed the adverse effects of IL-1β after they induced stress and inflammation. Blocking IL-1β when there wasn’t stress or inflammation, however, also caused adverse effects:

“Interestingly, administration of AS1 [the compound that blocked the proinflammatory responses] in the absence of LPS [the bacterial compound used to stress the subjects’ immune systems] treatment also impaired OLM [the object location memory test where control group rodents exhibited a preference for a novel location over a familiar location].

This finding is consistent with the notion that endogenous IL-1β at physiologically low levels may be essential for hippocampal memory function.”


The researchers asserted:

“Our data reveal a previously unidentified mechanism that explains the age-related vulnerability of hippocampal function to impairment by inflammation.”

Instead of couching their findings with a non-causal “age-related” term, could the researchers have specifically identified causes?

“IL-1β activates different pathways via AcP (proinflammatory) or AcPb (prosurvival) IL-1 receptor subunits.

This study demonstrates that the IL-1 receptor subunit system undergoes an age-dependent reconfiguration in hippocampal synapses.

This previously undescribed reconfiguration, characterized by an increase in the AcP/AcPb ratio, is responsible for potentiating impairments of synaptic plasticity and memory by IL-1β.”

What were the underlying causes for the relatively increased AcP activation over AcPb activation? The researchers didn’t say. Their explanations were left hanging at a correlated-but-not-causal “age-dependent” level rather than a “mechanism that explains.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/36/E5078.full “Synapse-specific IL-1 receptor subunit reconfiguration augments vulnerability to IL-1β in the aged hippocampus”

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