Glia- and tissue-specific changes in the Kynurenine Pathway after treatment of mice with lipopolysaccharide and dexamethasone

Carlos R. Dostal, Nicolaus S. Gamsby, Marcus A. Lawson, R. H. McCusker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Behavioral symptoms associated with mood disorders have been intimately linked with immunological and psychological stress. Induction of immune and stress pathways is accompanied by increased tryptophan entry into the Kynurenine (Kyn) Pathway as governed by the rate-limiting enzymes indoleamine/tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenases (DO's: Ido1, Ido2, Tdo2). Indeed, elevated DO expression is associated with inflammation- and stress-related depression symptoms. Here we examined central (brain, astrocyte and microglia) and peripheral (lung, liver and spleen) DO expression in mice treated intraperitoneally with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and dexamethasone (DEX) to model the response of the Kyn Pathway to inflammation and glucocorticoids. LPS-induced expression of cytokines in peripheral tissues was attenuated by DEX, confirming inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses, respectively. Increased Kyn levels following LPS and DEX administration verified Kyn Pathway activation. Expression of multiple mRNA isoforms for each DO, which we have shown to be differentially utilized and regulated, were quantified including reference/full-length (FL) and variant (v) transcripts. LPS increased Ido1-FL in brain (∼1000-fold), a response paralleled by increased expression in both astrocytes and microglia. Central Ido1-FL was not changed by DEX; however, LPS-induced Ido1-FL was decreased by DEX in peripheral tissues. In contrast, DEX increased Ido1-v1 expression by astrocytes and microglia, but not peripheral tissues. In comparison, brain Ido2 was minimally induced by LPS or DEX. Uniquely, Ido2-v6 was LPS- and DEX-inducible in astrocytes, suggesting a unique role for astrocytes in response to inflammation and glucocorticoids. Only DEX increased central Tdo2 expression; however, peripheral Tdo2 was upregulated by either LPS or DEX. In summary, specific DO isoforms are increased by LPS and DEX, but LPS-dependent Ido1 and Ido2 induction are attenuated by DEX only in the periphery indicating that elevated DO expression and Kyn production within the brain can occur independent of the periphery. These findings demonstrate a plausible interaction between immune activation and glucocorticoids associated with depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-335
Number of pages15
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrocyte
  • Inflammation
  • Kynurenine
  • Microglia
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Glia- and tissue-specific changes in the Kynurenine Pathway after treatment of mice with lipopolysaccharide and dexamethasone'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this