Influence of hypothalamic IL-6/gp130 receptor signaling on the HPA axis response to chronic stress

Milena Girotti, Jennifer J. Donegan, David A. Morilak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Abnormal basal activity and stress-evoked reactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are often seen in depression, implicating HPA axis dysfunction as a potentially causative or exacerbating factor. Chronic stress is also a factor in depression, but it is not known what may underlie the shift from adaptive to maladaptive HPA activity over the course of chronic stress. Interleukin 6 (IL-6), a stress-inducible cytokine that signals through gp130 and IL-6Rα receptors to activate the JAK/STAT3 signaling cascade, is elevated in some subtypes of depression, and may have a modulatory effect on HPA activation, raising the possibility that IL-6 contributes to depression through effects on the HPA axis. In this study, we examined the effects of three different stress modalities, acute footshock, chronic intermittent cold (CIC) stress and chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) on IL-6 signaling in the hypothalamus. We also investigated whether IL-6 modulates the HPA response to chronic stress, by blocking IL-6 signaling in the brain during CIC stress using either a neutralizing antibody or an inhibitor of STAT3 phosphorylation. We show that IL-6 and STAT3 in the hypothalamus are activated in response to footshock and CUS. We also found that basal IL-6 signaling through the JAK/STAT3 pathway is required for the sustained CORT response to chronic, but not acute, cold stress and therefore is a potential determinant of plasticity in the HPA axis specifically during chronic stress exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1158-1169
Number of pages12
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Chronic stress
  • HPA axis
  • Hypothalamus
  • Interleukin 6
  • JAK/STAT signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of hypothalamic IL-6/gp130 receptor signaling on the HPA axis response to chronic stress'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this