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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Mar 17;95(6):3251-6.

Sympathetic neurons can produce and respond to interleukin 6.

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Department of Medicine, Section Pathophysiology, Mainz University, Obere Zahlbacherstrasse 63, 55101 Mainz, Germany.


Neuronal expression of cytokines is an area of active investigation in the contexts of development, disease, and normal neural function. Although cultured rat sympathetic neurons respond very weakly to exogenous interleukin 6 (IL-6), we find that addition of soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R) and IL-6 enhances neuronal survival in the absence of nerve growth factor. Neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against IL-6 block these effects. Addition of IL-6 and sIL-6R also induces a subset of neuropeptide and transmitter synthetic enzyme mRNAs identical to that demonstrated for leukemia inhibitory factor, ciliary neurotrophic factor, and oncostatin M. Both of these effects are duplicated by addition of a highly active fusion protein of sIL-6R and IL-6, covalently linked by a flexible peptide chain, which is designated H-IL-6. In addition, we show that sympathetic neurons produce IL-6. In situ hybridization indicates a neuronal localization of IL-6 mRNA in superior cervical ganglia, and bioactive IL-6 protein is detected in ganglion culture supernatants. Interestingly, the IL-6 produced by sympathetic neurons does not lead to survival of these cells in culture unless sIL-6R is added. Thus, sympathetic neurons can produce IL-6 and may respond to it in an autocrine/paracrine manner if sIL-6R is present. Moreover, the prior findings of sIL-6R in serum and inflammatory fluids now have added interest in the context of neuro-immune interactions.

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