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PLoS One. 2013 May 8;8(5):e61405. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061405. Print 2013.

Intratracheal IL-6 protects against lung inflammation in direct, but not indirect, causes of acute lung injury in mice.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.



Serum and bronchoalveolar fluid IL-6 are increased in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and predict prolonged mechanical ventilation and poor outcomes, although the role of intra-alveolar IL-6 in indirect lung injury is unknown. We investigated the role of endogenous and exogenous intra-alveolar IL-6 in AKI-mediated lung injury (indirect lung injury), intraperitoneal (IP) endotoxin administration (indirect lung injury) and, for comparison, intratracheal (IT) endotoxin administration (direct lung injury) with the hypothesis that IL-6 would exert a pro-inflammatory effect in these causes of acute lung inflammation.


Bronchoalveolar cytokines (IL-6, CXCL1, TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-10), BAL fluid neutrophils, lung inflammation (lung cytokines, MPO activity [a biochemical marker of neutrophil infiltration]), and serum cytokines were determined in adult male C57Bl/6 mice with no intervention or 4 hours after ischemic AKI (22 minutes of renal pedicle clamping), IP endotoxin (10 µg), or IT endotoxin (80 µg) with and without intratracheal (IT) IL-6 (25 ng or 200 ng) treatment.


Lung inflammation was similar after AKI, IP endotoxin, and IT endotoxin. BAL fluid IL-6 was markedly increased after IT endotoxin, and not increased after AKI or IP endotoxin. Unexpectedly, IT IL-6 exerted an anti-inflammatory effect in healthy mice characterized by reduced BAL fluid cytokines. IT IL-6 also exerted an anti-inflammatory effect in IT endotoxin characterized by reduced BAL fluid cytokines and lung inflammation; IT IL-6 had no effect on lung inflammation in AKI or IP endotoxin.


IL-6 exerts an anti-inflammatory effect in direct lung injury from IT endotoxin, yet has no role in the pathogenesis or treatment of indirect lung injury from AKI or IP endotoxin. Since intra-alveolar inflammation is important in the pathogenesis of direct, but not indirect, causes of lung inflammation, IT anti-inflammatory treatments may have a role in direct, but not indirect, causes of ARDS.

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