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Stroke. 2003 Aug;34(8):1864-9. Epub 2003 Jul 3.

Multiple levels of regulation of the interleukin-6 system in stroke.

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Department of Neurology, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 400, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.



Serum levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) rise markedly in stroke. IL-6 is a key regulator of inflammatory mechanisms that play an important part in stroke pathophysiology. The action of IL-6 is modified by its soluble receptor subunits sgp130 and sIL-6R. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether serum levels of the receptor subunits are changed after ischemic stroke and to define the role of genetic influences on IL-6 expression in acute stroke.


In 48 patients with acute stroke and 48 age- and sex-matched control subjects, serum concentrations of IL-6, sgp130, and sIL-6R were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Furthermore, IL-6 promoter haplotypes comprising 4 different polymorphisms (-597G-->A, -572G-->C, -373A(n)T(n), -174G-->C) were determined by DNA sequencing and allele-specific oligonucleotide polymerase chain reaction. The effect of the common haplotypes on IL-6 gene transcription was tested by transfecting reporter fusion genes in the astrocytelike cell line U373.


Whereas serum concentrations of IL-6 significantly rose (P<0.001), sgp130 levels were transiently reduced after stroke (P<0.05), and sIL-6R levels remained unchanged. IL-6 levels depended on the infarct size and the haplotype of the promoter region. The common haplotype A-G-8/12-C was associated with low IL-6 levels after stroke and a reduced induction of IL-6 transcription on stimulation with an adenosine analog in vitro.


The data demonstrate genetic variation in the expression of IL-6 in stroke. Induction of the inflammatory response by IL-6 might be enhanced by a transient downregulation of the potential IL-6 antagonist sgp130.

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