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Exerc Immunol Rev. 2006;12:6-33.

Interleukin-6 in acute exercise and training: what is the biological relevance?

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Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism, Department of Infectious Diseases, Rigshospitalet and Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


It is now recognized that contracting skeletal muscle may synthesize and release interleukin-6 (IL-6) into the interstitium as well as into the systemic circulation in response to a bout of exercise. Although several sources of IL-6 have been demonstrated, contracting muscles contributes to most of the IL-6 present in the circulation in response to exercise. The magnitude of the exercise-induced IL-6 response is dependent on intensity and especially duration of the exercise, while the mode of exercise has little effect. Several mechanisms may link muscle contractions to IL-6 synthesis: Changes in calcium homeostasis, impaired glucose availability, and increased formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) are all capable of activating transcription factors known to regulate IL-6 synthesis. Via its effects on liver, adipose tissue, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and leukocytes, IL-6 may modulate the immunological and metabolic response to exercise. However, prolonged exercise involving a significant muscle mass in the contractile activity is necessary in order to produce a marked systemic IL-6 response. Furthermore, exercise training may reduce basal IL-6 production as well as the magnitude of the acute exercise IL-6 response by counteracting several potential stimuli of IL-6. Accordingly, a decreased plasma IL-6 concentration at rest as well as in response to exercise appears to characterize normal training adaptation.

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