Interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels are markedly increased in the synovial fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. However, the effects of IL-6 on proliferation and proteoglycan metabolism in articular cartilage are not known. We demonstrated here the effects of human recombinant (hr) IL-6 on proliferation and proteoglycan metabolism in rabbit articular chondrocyte cultures. In vitro, these cells proliferated and produced abundant extracellular matrices. We found that 1-10 ng/ml of hrIL-6 inhibited proliferation to approximately 65% of control levels and suppressed colony formation induced by bFGF in soft agarose. The same concentration of hrIL-6 depressed proteoglycan synthesis to approximately 60% of control levels. Moreover, hrIL-6 significantly enhanced proteoglycan degradation induced by hrIL-1beta, although hrIL-6 alone did not affect proteoglycan degradation. These findings suggest that IL-6 is a negative regulator for chondrocyte proliferation and articular cartilage metabolism.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.