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EMBO J. 1994 Mar 1; 13(5): 1189–1196.
PMCID: PMC394928

Interleukin-6 deficient mice are protected from bone loss caused by estrogen depletion.


Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine whose circulating levels are under physiological conditions below detection, but whose production is rapidly and strongly induced by several pathological and inflammatory stimuli. IL-6 has been implicated in a number of cell functions connected to immunity and hematopoiesis. Recently, it has been proposed to act as a stimulator of osteoclast formation and activity, in particular following estrogen depletion. The purpose of this study was to gain additional insights into the role of IL-6 during development, as well as in physiological and pathological conditions. We report here that IL-6 deficient mice generated by gene targeting are viable and do not present any evident phenotypic abnormality. However, analysis of bone metabolism revealed a specific bone phenotype. IL-6 deficient female mice have a normal amount of trabecular bone, but higher rates of bone turnover than control littermates. Estrogen deficiency induced by ovariectomy causes in wild type animals a significant loss of bone mass together with an increase in bone turnover rates. Strikingly, ovariectomy does not induce any change in either bone mass or bone remodeling rates in the IL-6 deficient mice. These findings indicate that IL-6 plays an important role in the local regulation of bone turnover and, at least in mice, appears to be essential for the bone loss caused by estrogen deficiency.

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