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Immunol Lett. 1990 Mar-Apr;24(1):1-9.

Interleukin-6: historical background, genetics and biological significance.

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Department of Surgery, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pleiotropic cytokine previously known as B cell stimulatory factor (BSF-2), interferon-beta 2 (IFN-beta 2), 26-kDa protein, and hepatocyte stimulating factor (HSF). The name IL-6 was proposed when the nucleotide sequences of the cDNAs for these proteins had been determined and the molecules were found to be identical. IL-6 production can be induced by a wide variety of agents in a wide range of cells, although IL-6 gene expression seems to be regulated in a tissue and stimulus specific manner. At least 3 different signal pathways regulate IL-6 gene expression, emphasizing its multiply inducible nature. The currently known activities of IL-6 include regulatory functions in hematopoiesis, immune reactions and acute phase responses. IL-6 appears to be a key member of the IL family; however, it is still poorly understood how IL-6 interacts with other lymphokines within the network. The anti-viral activity of IL-6 seems to be negligible. Elevated IL-6 levels have been found in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple myeloma and systemic lupus erythematosus. The abnormal expression and dysregulation of IL-6 in certain disorders may be a typical feature of this cytokine, making it the first cytokine that may be directly related to pathogenesis.

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