Thrombin is a procoagulant and proinflammatory molecule in vivo. In vitro, thrombin has been shown to induce endothelial activation, notably IL-8 secretion and adhesion molecule expression. In this study, we showed that thrombin may induce a new cascade leading from acute to chronic inflammation. Thrombin was able to induce the production of both IL-6 and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) by HUVEC independently of IL-1alphabeta and TNF-alpha. Addition of physiological concentrations of exogenous soluble IL-6Ralpha (sIL-6Ralpha) to thrombin-activated HUVEC was sufficient to increase the amounts of MCP-1 produced, but not those of IL-8. These effects could be blocked by anti-IL-6 or anti-sIL-6Ralpha blocking mAb, demonstrating the existence of an autocrine loop of MCP-1 secretion, involving the IL-6/IL-6Ralpha/gp130 complex on HUVEC. In addition, we identified IL-8-activated neutrophils as a potential source of sIL-6Ralpha because IL-8 induced IL-6Ralpha shedding from the neutrophil membranes and increased in parallel sIL-6Ralpha concentrations in neutrophil supernatants. Furthermore, addition of neutrophils to thrombin-activated HUVEC significantly increased MCP-1 secretion, which could be decreased by blocking IL-6. Thus, thrombin-activated endothelium may induce a cascade of events characterized by IL-8 secretion, neutrophil local infiltration, and the release of IL-6Ralpha from neutrophil membranes. sIL-6Ralpha may then complex with IL-6 and increase the amount of MCP-1 produced by thrombin-activated endothelium, favoring monocyte infiltration, and the transformation of acute into chronic inflammation.