Stress-induced modulation of NF-κB activation, inflammation-associated gene expression, and cytokine levels in blood of healthy men

Kuebler, Ulrike; Zuccarella-Hackl, Claudia; Arpagaus, Angela; Wolf, Jutta M.; Farahmand, Firouzeh; von Känel, Roland; Ehlert, Ulrike; Wirtz, Petra H. (2015). Stress-induced modulation of NF-κB activation, inflammation-associated gene expression, and cytokine levels in blood of healthy men. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 46, pp. 87-95. Elsevier 10.1016/j.bbi.2014.12.024

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Acute psychosocial stress stimulates transient increases in circulating pro-inflammatory plasma cytokines, but little is known about stress effects on anti-inflammatory cytokines or underlying mechanisms. We investigated the stress kinetics and interrelations of pro- and anti-inflammatory measures on the transcriptional and protein level. Forty-five healthy men were randomly assigned to either a stress or control group. While the stress group underwent an acute psychosocial stress task, the second group participated in a non-stress control condition. We repeatedly measured before and up to 120min after stress DNA binding activity of the pro-inflammatory transcription factor NF-κB (NF-κB-BA) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, whole-blood mRNA levels of NF-κB, its inhibitor IκBα, and of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1ß and IL-6, and the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. We also repeatedly measured plasma levels of IL-1ß, IL-6, and IL-10. Compared to non-stress, acute stress induced significant and rapid increases in NF-κB-BA and delayed increases in plasma IL-6 and mRNA of IL-1ß, IL-6, and IκBα (p's<.045). In the stress group, significant increases over time were also observed for NF-κB mRNA and plasma IL-1ß and IL-10 (p's<.055). NF-κB-BA correlated significantly with mRNA of IL-1β (r=.52, p=.002), NF-κB (r=.48, p=.004), and IκBα (r=.42, p=.013), and marginally with IL-6 mRNA (r=.31, p=.11). Plasma cytokines did not relate to NF-κB-BA or mRNA levels of the respective cytokines. Our data suggest that stress induces increases in NF-κB-BA that relate to subsequent mRNA expression of pro-inflammatory, but not anti-inflammatory cytokines, and of regulatory-cytoplasmic-proteins. The stress-induced increases in plasma cytokines do not seem to derive from de novo synthesis in circulating blood cells.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > BioMedical Research (DBMR) > Forschungsbereich Mu50 > Forschungsgruppe Psychosomatik
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Hackl, Claudia, von Känel, Roland, Wirtz, Petra Hedwig


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Adriana Biaggi

Date Deposited:

22 Apr 2015 14:55

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:46

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