In order to investigate the role of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-6 soluble receptor (sR) in human ovulation, we evaluated the concentrations in human follicular fluid and analyzed the correlation of IL-6 and IL-6 sR with oocyte maturation. The oocytes were obtained from the follicular fluid of 45 women undergoing in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. The concentrations of IL-6 and IL-6 sR in follicular fluid were measured by ELISA. In addition, granulosa cells obtained from the follicular fluid were cultured and treated with forskolin and 12- o-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate for 24-48 h. The concentration of IL-6 was significantly higher in the follicular fluid than in the serum (P<0.01). In contrast, the concentration of IL-6 sR was significantly lower in the follicular fluid than in the serum (P<0.001). The concentrations of IL-6 and IL-6 sR were significantly higher in the follicular fluid containing mature oocytes than in fluid containing immature oocytes (P<0.05). The production of IL-6 was markedly increased over the basal level after 24 h of treatment with forskolin (P<0.001) and 48 h of treatment (P<0.01) with cultured granulosa cells. Our data suggest that IL-6 and IL-6 sR may play an important role in follicular growth and development in human preovulatory processes. It is possible that IL-6 in particular may be regulated by cAMP. IL-6 and IL-6 sR might also be valuable biochemical markers in the evaluation of oocyte maturation.