Interleukin-1β: A putative mediator of HPA axis hyperactivity in major depression?

Michael Maes*, Eugène Bosmans, Herbert Y. Meltzer, Simon Scharpé, Eduard Suy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

345 Scopus citations


Objective: There is extensive evidence that major depression, and particularly melancholia, is characterized by hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity as well as systemic immune activation, which may be accompanied by increased interleukin-1β production. Interleukin-1β is known to enhance HPA axis activity during an immune response. This study investigated whether interleukin-1β production is related to HPA axis activity in depressed subjects. Method: The subjects were 28 inpatients with major or minor depression and 10 normal comparison subjects. The authors measured 1) the subjects' cortisol levels after an overnight 1-mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST) and 2) mitogen-stimulated supernatant interleukin-1β production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Results: Statistically significant positive correlations between interleukin-1β production and post-DST cortisol values were found in the study group as a whole and in the depressed and normal subgroups separately. Conclusions: It is suggested that constituents of the immune response (such as interleukin-1β) in major depression may contribute to HPA axis hyperfunction in that illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1189-1193
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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