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J Immunol. 1998 Oct 1;161(7):3575-81.

In vivo and in vitro activities of the gp130-stimulating designer cytokine Hyper-IL-6.

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  • 1First Department of Medicine, University of Mainz, Germany.


IL-6 is a multifactorial cytokine mediating acute inflammatory responses in the liver. When IL-6 binds to a specific receptor (IL-6R), the IL-6/IL-6R complex associates with the signal transducer gp130, initiating intracellular signaling. A soluble form of the IL-6R (sIL-6R) renders target cells sensitive to IL-6 that do not express the IL-6R on their surfaces. A designer cytokine, termed Hyper-IL-6, consisting of IL-6 covalently linked to the sIL-6R was fully active on gp130-expressing cells at 100- to 1000-fold lower concentrations than unlinked IL-6 and IL-6R. Mice were injected i.p. with Hyper-IL-6 or IL-6. Upon injection of Hyper-IL-6 into mice, the acute phase response, as measured by haptoglobin mRNA expression in the liver, was markedly increased and lasted significantly longer compared with that in mice injected with a 10-fold higher dose of IL-6 alone. On human hepatoma cells, Hyper-IL-6 caused similar effects, indicating that the longer lasting response to the fusion protein could not only be explained by the longer plasma half-life of the fusion protein. Experiments using iodinated IL-6 and Hyper-IL-6 revealed that Hyper-IL-6 bound with high affinity to gp130 and was less efficiently internalized. This effect might explain the longer lasting activity of this protein on cells. The highly active IL-6/sIL-6R designer protein might be of significant clinical importance for the stimulation of cells that are more responsive to the IL-6/sIL-6R complex than to IL-6 alone. Such cells include hemopoietic progenitor cells and hepatocytes.

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