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Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a key pro-inflammatory cytokine, produced predominantly by peripheral immune cells but also by glia and some neuronal populations within the brain. Its signalling is mediated via the binding of IL-1α or IL-1β to the interleukin-1 type one receptor (IL-1RI). IL-1 plays a key role in inflammation-induced sickness behaviour, resulting in depressed locomotor activity, decreased exploration, reduced food and water intake and acute cognitive deficits. Conversely, IL-1 has also been suggested to facilitate hippocampal-dependent learning and memory: IL-1RI(-/-) mice have been reported to show deficits on tasks of visuospatial learning and memory. We sought to investigate whether there is a generalised hippocampal deficit in IL-1RI(-/-) animals. Therefore, in the current study we compared wildtype (WT) mice to IL-1RI(-/-) mice using a variety of hippocampal-dependent learning and memory tasks, as well as tests of anxiety and locomotor activity. We found no difference in performance of the IL-1RI(-/-) mice compared to WT mice in a T-maze working memory task. In addition, the IL-1RI(-/-) mice showed normal learning in various spatial reference memory tasks including the Y-maze and Morris mater maze, although there was a subtle deficit in choice behaviour in a spatial discrimination, beacon watermaze task. IL-1RI(-/-) mice also showed normal memory for visuospatial context in the contextual fear conditioning paradigm. In the open field, IL-1RI(-/-) mice showed a significant increase in distance travelled and rearing behaviour compared to the WT mice and in the elevated plus-maze spent more time in the open arms than did the WT animals. The data suggest that, contrary to prior studies, IL-1RI(-/-) mice are not robustly impaired on hippocampal-dependent memory and learning but do display open field hyperactivity and decreased anxiety compared to WT mice. The results argue for a careful evaluation of the roles of endogenous IL-1 in hippocampal and limbic system function.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Animals, Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders, Cognition, Conditioning, Classical, Fear, Female, Hippocampus, Illness Behavior, Interleukin-1, Interleukin-1beta, Male, Maze Learning, Memory, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Receptors, Interleukin-1 Type I