Interleukin-6 (IL-6): a possible neuromodulator induced by neuronal activity

Neuroscientist. 2002 Jun;8(3):268-75. doi: 10.1177/1073858402008003012.


IL-6 and its receptor(s) are found in the CNS in health and disease. Cellular sources are glial cells and neurons. Glial production of IL-6 has intensively been studied, but comparatively little is known about the induction of IL-6 in neurons. Emerging evidence suggests that IL-6 possesses neurotrophic properties. Recent data show that neuronal IL-6 expression is induced by excitatory amino acids or membrane depolarization. This implicates that IL-6 is produced not only under pathological conditions but may play a critical role as a physiological neuromodulator that is induced by neuronal activity and regulates brain functions. In the following article, the authors review the current data on IL-6 expression in neurons, with special reference to the induction of IL-6 by neuronal activity. They discuss its direct and indirect effects as a neuromodulator and speculate about the possible function of IL-6 as a physiological regulatory molecule and as a neuroprotective agent in brain pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Excitatory Amino Acids / physiology
  • Fever / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / physiology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acids
  • Interleukin-6
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6