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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Jun;110(6):1549-54. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00037.2010. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Interleukin-6: a growth factor stimulating collagen synthesis in human tendon.

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Institute of Sports Medicine Copenhagen, Bispebjerg Hospital and Centre for Healthy Ageing, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, DK-2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark.


Human connective tissue, e.g., tendon, responds dynamically to physical activity, with collagen synthesis being increased after both acute and prolonged exercise or training. Markers of collagen synthesis and degradation as well as concentration of several potential growth factors have been shown to increase markedly in the peritendinous tissue around the human Achilles tendon following exercise. Of these potential growth factors interleukin-6 (IL-6) showed the largest fold increase, suggesting that IL-6 may be involved in transforming mechanical loading into collagen synthesis in human tendon tissue. In the present study the tissue levels of type I collagen turnover markers [procollagen type I NH(2)-terminal propeptide (PINP) and C-OOH terminal telopeptide of type I collagen (ICTP)] were measured by the use of microdialysis in peritendinous tissue of the Achilles tendon in 14 male volunteers, who had recombinant human IL-6 (rhIL-6) infused into the peritendinous tissue of the Achilles' tendon in one leg, with the other leg serving as control. Subjects were randomly assigned to either a resting group or an exercise group performing a 1-h treadmill run (12 km/h, 2% uphill) before infusion. In addition to IL-6, serum concentrations of collagen turnover markers PINP, ICTP, and COOH-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen (ICTX) were measured. The peritendinous concentration of PINP rose markedly in response to rhIL-6 infusion in both the exercise and the rest group, demonstrating that infusion of IL-6 significantly stimulates collagen synthesis in the peritendinous tissue in humans. Exercise alone did not result in an increased collagen synthesis. This indicates that IL-6 is involved in the collagen synthesis and supports the hypothesis that IL-6 is an important growth factor of the connective tissue in healthy human tendons.

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