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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2003 Oct;29(4):490-8. Epub 2003 Apr 24.

Inverse effects of interleukin-6 on apoptosis of fibroblasts from pulmonary fibrosis and normal lungs.

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Asthma & Allergy Research Institute, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Nedlands, Western Australia.


Fibroblast apoptosis is crucial to the resolution of fibrosis. However, the mechanisms by which these cells undergo apoptosis are not well known. Because interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-11 may alter repair and remodeling processes, we hypothesized that they may play a role in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). We investigated the effects of these cytokines on Fas-induced apoptosis using primary lung fibroblasts from three patients with IPF (IPF-Fb) and three subjects without lung disease (normal-Fb). IPF-Fb were resistant to Fas-induced apoptosis compared with normal-Fb (P < 0.01). Using RNase protection assays, we showed that IL-6 enhanced Fas-induced apoptosis and expression of Bax in normal-Fb, but inhibited apoptosis and induced expression of Bcl-2 in IPF-Fb. Densitometry of Western blots revealed a Bcl-2/Bax ratio 0.15 +/- 0.01 in normal-Fb compared with 12.05 +/- 1.0 in IPF-Fb. Upregulation of Bcl-2 in normal-Fb and Bax in IPF-Fb were both STAT-3-dependent. Inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated kinase had no effect in normal-Fb, but reversed the antiapoptotic effect of IL-6 in IPF-Fb. IL-11 inhibited Fas-induced apoptosis and increased Bcl-2 expression in both normal-Fb and IPF-Fb. These results suggest that altered IL-6 signaling in IPF-Fb may enhance the resistance of these cells to apoptosis and contribute to a profibrotic effect of IL-6 in IPF.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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