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Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jun;103(6):1372-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2007.01774.x. Epub 2008 May 28.

Increased hepatic and circulating interleukin-6 levels in human nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.



Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) are growing public health problems, and are strongly associated. The link between the two conditions remains poorly understood. Hepatic interleukin-6 (IL-6), a major proinflammatory cytokine, expression is increased in animal models of NAFLD, while in mice, selective sustained upregulation of IL-6 in the liver results in systemic insulin resistance. The extent and clinical significance of hepatic IL-6 expression in human NAFLD, as well as potential mechanisms by which steatosis may increase IL-6 production in the liver, have not been examined.


To ascertain the occurrence and significance of IL-6 expression in the liver in human NAFLD.


Plasma was obtained at time of liver biopsy from 50 consecutive patients with suspected NAFLD. Histology was assessed blindly. Hepatic IL-6 expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry, while plasma IL-6 levels were determined by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.


IL-6 expression was markedly increased in the livers of patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) as compared to patients with simple steatosis (P < 0.005) or normal biopsies (P < 0.010), confirming the presence of hepatic IL-6 expression in human NASH. A positive correlation was observed between hepatocyte IL-6 expression and degree of inflammation and stage of fibrosis. Furthermore, liver IL-6 expression positively correlated with plasma IL-6 levels and degree of systemic insulin resistance. Culture of liver cells with saturated, but not mono- or polyunsaturated, FFA resulted in a significant increase in IL-6 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein expression.


Collectively, these data suggest that increased hepatic IL-6 production may play an important role in NASH development, as well as in systemic insulin resistance and diabetes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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