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J Clin Invest. 1993 Jun;91(6):2806-14.

Interleukin-6 production in posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease.

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  • 1Laboratory of Immunology, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


IL-6, a multifunctional cytokine produced by monocytes, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells, promotes the growth of EBV-immortalized B cells in vitro and renders these cells tumorigenic in athymic mice. In the present study, serum/plasma IL-6 bioactivity was found to be abnormally elevated, albeit transiently, in 17 of 18 solid organ transplant recipients with posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD), with a mean maximal level of 196.7 U/ml. This represents a 16.4 increase above the normal mean (11.3 U/ml). In contrast, only 3 of 10 solid organ transplant recipients with uncomplicated courses posttransplant had abnormally elevated serum/plasma IL-6 bioactivity (mean maximal level 41.4 U/ml, P = 0.0007). When transferred to single cell culture, the 11 PTLD tissues produced 640 to 1.25 x 10(6) IL-6 U/ml in the culture supernatant, with a mean maximal level of 35,025 IL-6 U/ml. Cell separation experiments demonstrated that the adherent cells, identified as non-B cells, were the principal source of IL-6 production in vitro by PTLD tissue. Control cultures of inflammatory lymphoid tissue negative for lymphoproliferative disease as well as of PBL from patients with acute EBV-induced infectious mononucleosis consistently produced < 10 IL-6 U/ml. Thus, IL-6 is produced at high levels by PTLD tissues and may play a critical role in the pathogenesis of PTLD.

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