Key role for hypothalamic interleukin-6 in food-motivated behavior and body weight regulation

Lorena López-Ferreras, Francesco Longo, Jennifer E. Richard, Kim Eerola, Olesya T. Shevchouk, Madeleine Tuzinovic, Karolina P. Skibicka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The pro-inflammatory role of interleukin-6 (IL-6) is well-characterized. Blockade of IL-6, by Tocilizumab, is used in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and those diagnosed with cytokine storm. However, brain-produced IL-6 has recently emerged as a critical mediator of gut/adipose communication with the brain. Central nervous system (CNS) IL-6 is engaged by peripheral and central signals regulating energy homeostasis. IL-6 is critical for mediating hypophagia and weight loss effects of a GLP-1 analog, exendin-4, a clinically utilized drug. However, neuroanatomical substrates and behavioral mechanisms of brain IL-6 energy balance control remain poorly understood. We propose that the lateral hypothalamus (LH) is an IL-6-harboring brain region, key to food intake and food reward control. Microinjections of IL-6 into the LH reduced chow and palatable food intake in male rats. In contrast, female rats responded with reduced motivated behavior for sucrose, measured by the progressive ratio operant conditioning test, a behavioral mechanism previously not linked to IL-6. To test whether IL-6, produced in the LH, is necessary for ingestive and motivated behaviors, and body weight homeostasis, virogenetic knockdown by infusion of AAV-siRNA-IL6 into the LH was utilized. Attenuation of LH IL-6 resulted in a potent increase in sucrose-motivated behavior, without any effect on ingestive behavior or body weight in female rats. In contrast, the treatment did not affect any parameters measured (chow intake, sucrose-motivated behavior, locomotion, and body weight) in chow-fed males. However, when challenged with a high-fat/high-sugar diet, the male LH IL-6 knockdown rats displayed rapid weight gain and hyperphagia. Together, our data suggest that LH-produced IL-6 is necessary and sufficient for ingestive behavior and weight homeostasis in male rats. In females, IL-6 in the LH plays a critical role in food-motivated, but not ingestive behavior control or weight regulation. Thus, collectively these data support the idea that brain-produced IL-6 engages the hypothalamus to control feeding behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105284
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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