An increase in salivary interleukin-6 level following acute psychosocial stress and its biological correlates in healthy young adults.

Research paper by Shuhei S Izawa, Nagisa N Sugaya, Kenta K Kimura, Namiko N Ogawa, Kosuke C KC Yamada, Kentaro K Shirotsuki, Ikuyo I Mikami, Kanako K Hirata, Yuichiro Y Nagano, Shinobu S Nomura

Indexed on: 09 Jul '13Published on: 09 Jul '13Published in: Biological Psychology


Although interleukin-6 (IL-6) has been investigated frequently in stress research, knowledge regarding the biological processes of IL-6 in association with psychosocial stress remains incomplete. This study focused on salivary IL-6 and reports its temporal variation and biological correlates following acute psychosocial stress. Fifty healthy young adults (39 male and 11 female students) were subjected to the psychosocial stress test 'Trier Social Stress Test' (TSST), wherein the participants were asked to deliver a speech and perform a mental arithmetic task in front of 2 audiences. Collection of saliva samples, measurement of heart rate, and assessment of negative moods by visual analogue scales were conducted before, during, and after TSST. Salivary IL-6 levels increased by approximately 50% in response to the TSST and remained elevated for 20 min after the stress tasks were completed. Cluster analyses revealed that individuals with sustained elevation of IL-6 levels following the TSST exhibited a lower cortisol response compared to individuals with lower IL-6 levels. In the correlation analyses, a greater IL-6 response was associated with a higher heart rate during the mental arithmetic task (r=.351, p<.05) and with a lower cortisol response (r=-.302, p<.05). This study demonstrates that salivary IL-6 levels are elevated for a relatively long period following acute psychosocial stress, and suggests that sympathetic activity and cortisol secretion are involved in elevation of salivary IL-6 levels.