C3a and C5a anaphylatoxins are two proinflammatory peptides generated during complement activation that act through distinct Gi protein-coupled receptors named C3aR and C5aR, respectively. We have demonstrated previously that human astrocytes expressed C3aR and C5aR constitutively and were able to produce a functional complement. In this study, we examined the effect of an anaphylatoxin stimulation on cytokine expression by human astrocyte cell lines. Interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and transforming growth factor-beta mRNA expression was studied by quantitative RT-PCR. Whereas IL-1beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and transforming growth factor-beta mRNA levels remained unchanged, stimulation of astrocytoma cells (T98G, CB193, U118MG) by C3a, C5a, and peptidic C3aR and C5aR agonists induced an increase in the IL-6 mRNA level. The amount of IL-6 was markedly increased at 3 and 6 h and returned to the basal level at 9 h of stimulation. This response was specific, because pretreatment of cells with pertussis toxin or with polyclonal anti-C3aR or anti-C5aR antibodies completely blocked the IL-6 mRNA increase. The IL-6 response was also investigated at the protein level, but IL-6 protein was detected neither in cell lysates nor in supernatants of stimulated cells. The anaphylatoxin-mediated transcriptional activation of IL-6 gene suggests that C3a and C5a could play a role in priming glial cells during the inflammatory process in the brain.