Drug Disease Interactions: Role of Inflammatory Mediators in Depression and Variability in Antidepressant Drug Response
Kenneth M. Kulmatycki1
and Fakhreddin Jamali2
Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, Schering-Plough Research Institute
, New Jersey, USA and 2
Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton
, Alberta, Canada
Received, September 5, 2006; Revised, October 4, 2006; Accepted, October 5, 2006; Published,, October 5, 2006
Increased cytokine expression and concurrent psychiatric symptoms were initially observed after administration of cytokines to patients afflicted with cancer, hepatitis and multiple sclerosis. Cytokines are a diverse group of soluble messenger proteins involved in the regulation, repair of cells
, and control of immune events. During an inflammatory event expression of CD4+
T-lymphocyte helper (Th)1 cells that primarily produce pro-inflammatory cytokines is favored which can lead to development of inflammatory disease (e.g., cardiovascular disease). Similarly
, relationships have been shown to exist between changes in inflammatory mediator concentrations, specifically pro-inflammatory cytokines, and depression. An increased prevalence of depression in patients afflicted with co-morbid inflammatory disease indirectly supports this association. In further support
, antidepressants have been suggested to alleviate symptoms of depression via anti-inflammatory actions. Administration of anti-cytokines to patients with concurrent depression and inflammatory disease has resulted in relief of depressive symptoms. The exact role of inflammation in development of depression
, however, remains to be determined. Nevertheless, increased expression of inflammatory mediators in depressed patients occurs which may lead to variability in response to antidepressant drug therapy. For example, depressed patients non-responsive to drug treatment are reported to have increased cell mediated immunity shown by elevated CD4+
T-cell activity, pro-inflammatory cytokine expression, and stimulation of the acute phase response. This suggests a psycho-neuroimmunological approach may be required for optimal pharmacotherapy.
Conditions such as infection or injury stimulate an inflammatory response which is a complex cascade of non-specific immune events. Increased capillary blood flow and permeability that occurs during inflammation allows various cells of the immune system to enter the affected region resulting in swelling
, redness, heat, and pain (1-3). This usually is a well controlled process resulting in removal of bacteria and tissue repair. However, excessive generation of mediators of inflammation such as cytokines by cells of the adaptive (T-lymphocytes) and innate (macrophages, monocytes, neutrophils) immune systems can lead to morbidity (2, 3). Cytokines are messenger proteins that are involved in cell regulation and repair as well as immunological responses to various stimuli (2-3). During an inflammatory event the balance between CD4+
T-lymphocyte helper 1 (Th1) cells that primarily produce pro-inflammatory cytokines [e.g. interferon (IFN)-, interleukin (IL)-2, tissue necrosis factor (TNF-)] and helper 2 (Th2) cells that mainly produce anti-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., IL-4, IL-10, IL-13) is altered favoring expression of Th1 cytokines (2-4). Secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines by Th1 cells and cells of the innate immune system (e.g., macrophages) can result in development of disease (2-4). Increased inflammatory mediator expression (e.g., pro-inflammatory cytokines, C-reactive protein, nitric oxide) in association with morbidity is reported for various conditions such as cardiovascular, neurological and rheumatic disorders (5-9). Similarly, relationships have been shown to exist between changes in inflammatory mediator concentrations, specifically pro-inflammatory cytokines, and depression (10).
: Dr. K.M. Kulmatycki, Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, Schering-Plough Research Institute, Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA; email@example.com
, or Dr. F. Jamali, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2N8, firstname.lastname@example.org.
INFLAMMATORY MEDIATORS AND DEPRESSION
Cytokines are large hydrophilic molecules thus penetration through the blood brain barrier is thought to be negligible and their role in pathology of psychiatric disorders limited. Cytokines may enter the brain, however, through regions where the blood brain barrier is absent (e.g., circumventricular organs), less restrictive (e.g. median eminence), compromised (e.g., multiple sclerosis) or by transport systems (10, 11). Inflammatory cytokines may also be produced within the CNS (e.g., IL-1, IFN-, TNF-) in the hypothalamus, hippocampus, basal ganglia and brain stem nuclei and bind to receptors on the surface of cells within the brain such as microglia, astrocytes and neurons (10, 11). In addition
, by stimulating production of other mediators of inflammation such as nitric oxide and prostaglandins cytokines may indirectly influence CNS function (10-13).
Increased cytokine concentrations and concurrent psychiatric symptoms were initially observed after administration of cytokines to patients afflicted with cancer, hepatitis and multiple sclerosis (14-19). For example, to investigate the acute effects of cytokine therapy on development of depressive symptoms thirty-three cancer patients were separated into four treatment groups all receiving cytokine treatment. Each group was administered either subcutaneous IL-2 alone or in combination with IFN- as low subcutaneous or high intravenous doses of IFN- (20). Assessment of depressive symptoms and serum cytokine concentrations in these patients was conducted prior to beginning therapy and five days after starting treatment. The intensity of depressive symptoms was assessed using the Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). On these same days blood samples were collected from each patient for measurement of serum cytokine concentrations (IL-6, -10, -1ra) and receptors [sIL-2r and (leukemia inhibitory factor-receptor) LIF-R]. No differences in MADRS scores and cytokine levels were found between the treatment groups prior to starting immunotherapy. IL-2 treatment alone and not INF- treatment alone significantly raised the depression scores. Combined treatment of IL-2 and IFN- resulted in higher depression scores than IL-2 alone as shown in Figure 1. Compared to patients that received IFN- alone, patients treated with IFN- and IL-2 had a greater stimulation of the cytokine network. In the IFN- treated patients increases in IL-1ra and LIF-R were more pronounced after intravenous administration. Increased serum levels of IL-10 in patients that have a significant increase in MADRS scores indicate the presence of an inflammatory response. Increases in cytokine concentrations were associated with development of other toxic effects such as fever and nausea/vomiting that were attributed to pyrogenic and digestive/anorexia effects of cytokines. In addition, age, gender, medical/pharmacological factors did not contribute to the variation in IFN- and IL-2 expression in patients or MADRS scores during cytokine treatment.
The observed elevation of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the above cancer patients (20) after administration of IL-2 alone, IL-2 and IFN-, and high dose intravenous IFN- therapy demonstrates immune activation. This suggests an association between development of depressive symptoms and activation of the immune system (i.e., inflammation) in cancer patients undergoing cytokine therapy. In further support, the development of acute anxiety and depression was evaluated in cancer patients treated with subcutaneous IL-2 (n=20), IFN-2b subcutaneous (n=8) or intravenous (n=14) or a combination of subcutaneous IL-2 and IFN-2b (n=6) using the Covi Anxiety Scale and MADRS scores prior to treatment and on day 3 and 5 of cytokine therapy. In further support, the development of acute anxiety and depression was evaluated in cancer patients treated with subcutaneous IL-2 (n=20), IFN-2b subcutaneous (n=8) or intravenous (n=14) or a combination of subcutaneous IL-2 and IFN-2b (n=6) using the Covi Anxiety Scale and MADRS scores prior to treatment and on day 3 and 5 of cytokine therapy. Depression scores were significantly increased after IL-2 and not IFN-2b treatment on day 5 (21). Patients treated with IL-2 and IFN-2b had higher depression scores by day 5 compared to those treated with IL-2 alone. Anxiety scores were significantly increased only for patients treated with IL-2 combined with IFN-2b which may have been due to somatic effects of these two cytokines. However, MADRS scores for these patients were positively correlated with Covi scale scores indicating that depressed mood overlapped with anxiety in these patients. Development of depressive and anxiety symptoms were suggested to be due to IFN-2b acting synergistically with IL-2 treatment amplifying the neuropsychiatric effects of IL-2.
Development of depressive illness after administration of pro-inflammatory cytokines may be due to the various roles that cytokines have in facilitation of communication between the immune and central nervous systems (22-28). For example, IL-1, IL-6 and TNF- are key mediators in immune-to-brain communication by orchestrating responses such as fever and changes in sleep patterns (29-31). In addition, during the course of an infection physiological and psychological effects of immune activation occur that are primarily mediated by the central actions of peripherally released inflammatory cytokines (e.g., IL-1, -1, IL-6, TNF-) referred to as sickness behavior (32). Sickness behavior is accompanied by fever and behavioral changes such as decreased appetite, anorexia, weight loss
, fatigue, sleep disturbances, impaired cognitive abilities, dysphoria
, anhedonia and depressed mood which are all symptoms of depression (11, 32). This behavior appears to be a reorganization of the priorities of the patient to cope with infectious pathogens and inflammation. Individuals also experience these same symptoms after systemic or central administration of cytokines (14-18, 33, 34). Administration of endotoxin to humans, interestingly
, at doses below those known to cause illness increased IL-6 and TNF- expression resulting in transient anxiety, depression, and memory impairment. The symptoms of mental illness were positively correlated with changes in expression of IL-6 and TNF- (35).
Patients administered cytokines generally experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, malaise, headache, myalgia at the beginning of immunotherapy that usually diminishes as treatment is continued. Psychiatric disorders (e.g., dysphoria, anhedonia, anxiety and impaired cognitive ability) generally occur later suggesting symptoms of psychiatric illness are not secondary to physical discomfort. Administration of cytokines has been linked to various psychiatric conditions ranging from subtle memory and attention impairments to delirium, psychosis and suicide (16-18, 34, 36). Changes in mood and cognitive disturbances in some individuals may even persist for weeks to months after finishing or stopping treatment (36). Determining the role of immune system activation in pathology of depression whether idiopathic or due to pro-inflammatory cytokine administration, however, is difficult due to heterogeneous patient sampling when comparing studies. Nevertheless, immune changes in association with depressive symptoms are reported such as increased pro-inflammatory cytokines and receptors (e.g., sIL-1ra, sIL-2r, IL-6, sIL-6r), prostaglandin E2
, and thromboxane B2
(37-43). In addition, activation of the acute phase response, a systemic response to local inflammation, shown by increased concentrations of 1
, antitrypsin, antichymotrypsin, hatoglobin, C-reactive protein, celuroplasmin and decreased concentrations of albumin is reported to occur in depressed individuals (37, 43-49).
Depression is estimated to afflict 121 million people worldwide (50). Depression and anxiety are often concurrent conditions especially in situations where exposure to psychological stress is chronic and/or where physiological responses to stressors are disproportionately large (51, 52). This raises the question of whether anxiety may contribute to the inflammatory mediator over-expression that is observed in depressed individuals.
To investigate whether psychological stress alters pro-inflammatory cytokine production concentration of various cytokines were measured from blood samples obtained from medical students one month before and after as well as one day before an academic examination (53). Students were divided into two groups those who had low stress perception and those who perceived themselves to be highly stressed and anxious. Blood samples for cytokines were taken before (mean of 45 6.0 days before), after (mean of 36 5.9 days after) and stress (one day before) a difficult academic examination. Psychological stress was associated with increased concentrations of TNF-, IL-6, IL-1ra, IFN- and IL-10. The students who had high stress perception had significantly greater concentrations of TNF-, IL-6, IL-1ra and IFN- than those with low stress perception as shown in Figure 2. Students with high anxiety response had higher pro-inflammatory IFN- and lower anti-inflammatory IL-10 and IL-4 concentrations compared to students with lower anxiety. Increased concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokine expression accompanied perception of psychological stress indicate stress-induced anxiety may be associated with an increase in Th1 cell responses.