Elevated levels of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) occur in a number of CNS disorders. However, little is known about how this condition affects CNS neuronal function. Transgenic mice that express elevated levels of IL-6 in the CNS show cognitive changes, increased propensity for hippocampal seizures and reduced number of inhibitory interneurons, suggesting that elevated levels of IL-6 can cause neuroadaptive changes that alter hippocampal function. To identify these neuroadaptive changes, we measured the levels of protein expression using Western blot analysis and synaptic function using field potential recordings in hippocampus from IL-6 transgenic mice (IL-6 tg) and their non-transgenic (non-tg) littermates. Western blot analysis showed enhanced levels of the GFAP and STAT3 in the IL-6 tg hippocampus compared with the non-tg hippocampus, but no difference for several other proteins. Field potential recordings of synaptic transmission at the Schaffer collateral to CA1 synapse showed enhanced dendritic excitatory postsynaptic potentials and somatic population spikes in the CA1 region of hippocampal slices from IL-6 tg mice compared with slices from non-tg littermate controls. No differences were observed for several forms of short-term and long-term synaptic plasticity between hippocampal slices from IL-6 tg and non-tg mice. These results demonstrate that elevated levels of IL-6 can alter mechanisms involved in the excitability of hippocampal neurons and synapses, an effect consistent with recent evidence indicating that elevated production of IL-6 plays an important role in conditions associated with seizure activity and in other impairments observed in CNS disorders with a neuroinflammatory component.
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