Sex differences in the effect of acute peripheral IL-1β administration on the brain and serum BDNF and VEGF expression in rats

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The present study was designed to evaluate, for the first time, the potential sex differences in BDNF and VEGF systems under normal conditions and in response to IL-1β given ip. Peripheral overproduction of this cytokine mediates the pathophysiology of various acute neuroinflammatory states. Until now, the effect of IL-1β on VEGF expression in rat brain structures and its serum level has not been examined. In male and female rats, the BDNF and VEGF mRNA expression, and BDNF level were evaluated in the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The VEGF levels were determined in the pituitary. Serum BDNF and VEGF levels were also measured. The pituitary BDNF mRNA, and BDNF and VEGF levels were higher in females than in male rats whereas in males, the BDNF levels were higher in the other brain structures. The serum BDNF concentration was similar in both groups but VEGF levels were enhanced in females. Following IL-1β (50 μg/kg ip.) administration, a higher serum IL-1β level was detected in females than in males. In male rats, IL-1β decreased BDNF mRNA in all the brain structures, except for the pituitary, and VEGF mRNA in the amygdala. In opposite, IL-1β challenge in females increased the pituitary VEGF mRNA and serum BDNF and VEGF levels. These results suggest that in females BDNF and VEGF may play a more important role in the pituitary function. In males, amygdala trophic system seems to be especially sensitive to the enhanced peripheral IL-1β production. Our findings point to the need to consider sex-related differences to be able to draw reliable conclusions about changes in BDNF and VEGF levels during inflammation.

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