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J Neurochem. 1996 Oct;67(4):1365-74.

Interleukin-6 induces expression of peripherin and cooperates with Trk receptor signaling to promote neuronal differentiation in PC12 cells.

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Eukaryotic Transcriptional Regulation Group, NCI-Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, Maryland 21702-1201, USA.


In contrast to the intensively studied nerve growth factor (NGF)-related family of cytokines, relatively little is known about the mechanisms of neurotrophic activity elicited by the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6). We have examined the mechanisms of IL-6-induced neuronal differentiation of the pheochromocytoma cell line PC12. IL-6 independently induced the expression of peripherin, identifying this gene as the first neuronal-specific target of IL-6. However, IL-6 alone failed to elicit neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells and instead required low levels of Trk/NGF receptor tyrosine kinase activity to induce neuronal differentiation. The cooperating Trk signal could be provided by either overexpression of Trk or exposure to low concentrations of NGF. IL-6 also functioned cooperatively with basic fibroblast growth factor to promote PC12 differentiation. IL-6 and Trk/NGF synergized in enhancing tyrosine phosphorylation of the Erk-1 mitogen-activated protein kinase and in activating expression of certain NGF target genes. NGF also induced expression of the gp80 subunit of the IL-6 receptor, providing another potential mechanism of cooperativity between NGF and IL-6 signaling. We propose that IL-6 functions as an enhancer of NGF signaling rather than as an autonomous neuronal differentiation signal. Moreover, our results demonstrate that a Trk receptor-specific cellular response can be achieved in the absence of NGF through amplification of its basal signaling activity by the IL-6 receptor system.

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