Deregulation of the inflammatory response plays a major role in the age-related decline of physical performance. The causal pathway leading from inflammation to disability has not been fully clarified, but several researches suggest that interleukin-6 (IL-6) causes a reduction of physical performance in elderly through its effect on muscle function. In vitro studies demonstrated that IL-6 inhibits the secretion of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and its biological activity, suggesting that the negative effect of IL-6 on muscle function might be mediated through IGF-I. We evaluated the joint effect of IGF-I and IL-6 on muscle function in a population-based sample of 526 persons with a wide age range (20-102 yr). After adjusting for potential confounders, such as age, sex, body mass index, IL-6 receptor, and IL-6 promoter polymorphism, IL-6, IGF-I, and their interaction were significant predictors of handgrip and muscle power. In analyses stratified by IL-6 tertiles, IGF-I was an independent predictor of muscle function only in subjects in the lowest IL-6 tertile, suggesting that the effect of IGF-I on muscle function depends on IL-6 levels. This mechanism may explain why IL-6 is a strong risk factor for disability.