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Mediators Inflamm. 2003 Feb;12(1):3-8.

Human intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cells are potent producers of IL-6.

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Department of Surgery, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO, USA.



Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a pluripotent cytokine, has traditionally been considered the product of proinflammatory cells. However, many other cell types have been shown to produce IL-6. Since intestinal inflammation is commonly associated with a vigorous systemic inflammatory response, we hypothesized that intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cells might contribute to that response by producing IL-6. We therefore studied the capacity of differentiated human intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cell lines to produce IL-6 in response to various proinflammatory stimuli.


CCL-241, a human intestinal epithelial cell line, and HISM, a human intestinal muscle cell line, were grown to confluency and then treated for 24 h with various concentrations of lipopolysaccharide, Clostridium difficile culture extract containing both toxin A and toxin B, recombinant human tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), or recombinant human interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta). Supernatants were then collected for IL-6 determination using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Cell numbers were determined using a Coulter counter. For comparison, parallel studies were performed using phorbol ester-primed U-937 and THP-1 human macrophage cell lines.


Both human intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cells produced IL-6 under basal conditions. In HISM cells, but not in CCL-241 cells, IL-6 release was increased slightly by treatment with C. difficile culture extract containing both toxin A and toxin B and with lipopolysaccharide. In both cell lines, IL-6 production was profoundly stimulated by treatment with IL-1beta and less so with TNF-alpha. Combinations of high-dose TNF-alpha and IL-1beta may have a slightly additive, but not synergistic, effect on IL-6 release. The amount of IL-6 produced by IL-1-stimulated intestinal cell lines was 70-fold higher than that produced by stimulated macrophage cell lines. CONCLUSIONS; Both intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cells demonstrate the ability to release significant amounts of IL-6. The profound response to IL-1beta and TNF-alpha stimulation by both cell lines suggests that human intestinal parenchymal cells, influenced by paracrine mediators liberated from proinflammatory cells, might significantly contribute to the overall systemic inflammatory response by producing IL-6.

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