Increased Hypothalamic Levels of Endozepines, Endogenous Ligands of Benzodiazepine Receptors, in a Rat Model of Sepsis

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The mechanisms involved in septic anorexia are mainly related to the secretion of inflammatory cytokines. The term endozepines designates a family of neuropeptides, including the octadecaneuropeptide (ODN), originally isolated as endogenous ligands of benzodiazepine receptors. Previous data showed that ODN, produced and released by astrocytes, is a potent anorexigenic peptide. We have studied the effect of sepsis by means of a model of cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) on the hypothalamic expression of endozepines (DBI mRNA and protein levels), as well as on the level of neuropeptides controlling energy homeostasis mRNAs: pro-opiomelanocortin, neuropeptide Y, and corticotropin-releasing hormone. In addition, we have investigated the effects of two inflammatory cytokines, TNF-α and IL-1β, on DBI mRNA levels in cultured rat astrocytes.


Studies were performed on Sprague-Dawley male rats and on cultures of rat cortical astrocytes. Sepsis was induced using the CLP method. Sham-operated control animals underwent the same procedure, but the cecum was neither ligated nor incised.


Sepsis caused by CLP evoked an increase of DBI mRNA levels in ependymal cells bordering the third ventricle and in tanycytes of the median eminence. CLP-induced sepsis was also associated with stimulated ODN-like immunoreactivity (ODN-LI) in the hypothalamus. In addition, TNF-α, but not IL-1β, induced a dose-dependent increase in DBI mRNA in cultured rat astrocytes. An increase in the mRNA encoding the precursor of the anorexigenic peptide α-melanocyte stimulating hormone, the pro-opiomelanocortin, and the corticotropin-releasing hormone was observed in the hypothalamus.


These results suggest that during sepsis, hypothalamic mRNA encoding endozepines, anorexigenic peptide as well as stress hormone could play a role in the anorexia/cachexia associated with inflammation due to sepsis and we suggest that this hypothalamic mRNA expression could involve TNF-α.

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