Cytokines inhibit sexual behavior in female rats: II. Prostaglandins mediate the suppressive effects of interleukin-1β

Ronit Avitsur*, Joseph Weidenfeld, Raz Yirmiya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) induces several behavioral alterations that are characteristic of illness, such as anorexia and reduced locomotor and social activity. We have recently demonstrated that IL-1 inhibits sexual activity, motivation and attractivity in female, but not in male rats following either central or peripheral administration. In the present study we examined the involvement of prostaglandin (PG) synthesis in mediating IL-1-induced suppression of female sexual behavior. Administration of the cyclooxygenase blockers indomethacin or ibuprofen completely prevented IL-1-induced suppression of female sexual behavior, including the reduction in proceptive behavior, the lordosis response to a male's mounts, and the preference for a sexually active partner. In a subsequent study, ex-vivo release of hypothalamic PGE2 and the secretion of corticosterone (CS) were measured in males and estrous females following IL-1 administration. At the same time and dose of IL-1 administration that significantly reduced sexual behavior in female but not male rats, IL-1 produced a significant increase in PGE2 release in female, but not in male rats. In contrast, IL-1 induced a significant elevation of serum CS levels in males but not in females. These findings suggest that PG synthesis is involved in mediating the effects of IL-1 on female sexual behavior. Furthermore, differential secretion of PGs and CS may underlie the gender difference in the effects of IL-1 on sexual behavior.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Ohr Barak, Roee Canaan, Inbal Goshen, Anna Itzik, Yehuda Pollak, and Noya Regev for excellent help in running the experiments. IL-1b was generously provided by Dr. C. Reynolds from the Biological Response Modifiers Program, NCI. This research was supported by Grant 97-204 from the United-States–Israel Binational Science Foundation.


  • Corticosterone
  • Interleukin-1
  • Prostaglandins
  • Rats
  • Sexual behavior
  • Sickness behavior


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