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J Interferon Cytokine Res. 1999 Nov;19(11):1271-6.

Dose-dependent effects of recombinant human interleukin-6 on the pituitary-testicular axis.

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  • 1Developmental Endocrinology Branch, NICHD, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. ctsigos@hndc.gr

Abstract

Inflammatory cytokines are soluble mediators of immune function that also regulate intermediate metabolism and several endocrine axes. To examine the effects of interleukin-6 (IL-6), the main circulating cytokine, on the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis in men, we performed dose-response studies of recombinant human IL-6 (rHuIL-6) in normal volunteers. Increasing single doses of IL-6 (0.1, 0.3, 1.0, 3.0, and 10.0 microg/kg body weight) were injected subcutaneously into 15 healthy male volunteers (3 at each dose) in the morning. We measured the circulating levels of testosterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) at baseline and then at 24 h, 48 h, and 7 days after the IL-6 injection. LH and FSH levels were also measured half-hourly for the first 4 h after the IL-6 injection. All IL-6 doses were tolerated well and produced no significant adverse effects. Mean peak plasma IL-6 levels achieved after IL-6 administration were 8 +/- 1, 22 +/- 5, 65 +/- 22, 290 +/- 38, and 4050 +/- 149 pg/ml, respectively for the five doses. We observed no significant changes in plasma testosterone levels after the two smaller IL-6 doses. The three higher IL-6 doses, however, caused significant decreases in testosterone levels by 24 h, which persisted at 48 h and returned to baseline by 7 days. The higher testosterone suppression was after the 3.0 microg/kg dose, making the dose-response curve bell-shaped. There also appeared to be small but not significant increases in LH levels after the three higher IL-6 doses, which were not acute and seemed to follow temporally the testosterone decreases. The concurrent plasma levels of FSH and SHBG were not appreciably affected by any IL-6 dose. In conclusion, subcutaneous IL-6 administration, which caused acute elevations in circulating IL-6 levels of a similar magnitude to those observed in severe inflammatory and noninflammatory stress, induced prolonged suppression in testosterone levels in healthy men without apparent changes in gonadotropin levels. This suggests that IL-6 might induce persistent testicular resistance to LH action or suppression of Leydig cell steroidogenesis or both, with potential adverse effects on male reproductive function.

PMID:
10574620
DOI:
10.1089/107999099312948
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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