IL-6 is a pleiotropic cytokine with a wide range of biological activities in immune regulation, hematopoiesis, inflammation, and oncogenesis. Its activities are shared by IL-6-related cytokines such as leukemia inhibitory factor and oncostatin M. The pleiotropy and redundancy of IL-6 functions have been identified by using a unique receptor system comprising two functional proteins: an IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) and gp130, the common signal transducer of cytokines related to IL-6. Signal transduction through gp130 is mediated by two pathways: the JAK-STAT (Janus family tyrosine kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription) pathway and the Ras mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. The negative regulators of IL-6 signaling have also been identified, although the physiological roles of the molecules are not yet fully understood. The pathological roles of IL-6 have also been clarified in various disease conditions, such as inflammatory, autoimmune, and malignant diseases. On the basis of the findings, a new therapeutic approach to block the IL-6 signal using humanized anti-IL-6R antibody for rheumatoid arthritis, Castleman's disease, and multiple myeloma has been attempted.