Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is produced during bacterial and viral infections and by various malignant tumors. Here, we describe novel immunosuppressive properties of IL-6 in dendritic cells (DC). In the presence of GM-CSF, IL-4, and a maturation stimulus, IL-6 skewed monocyte differentiation into phenotypically mature but functionally impaired DC. In DC matured with the toll-like receptor (TLR)4 stimulus lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or other pro-inflammatory stimuli, IL-6 inhibited CCR7 chemokine receptor up-regulation. As demonstrated for LPS-stimulated DC, IL-6 impaired chemotaxis to CCR7-activating chemokines required for recruiting DC to lymphoid tissues in vivo. Moreover, IL-6 inhibited production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interferon-gamma inducible protein-10 (IP-10) in DC, and DC-driven allogeneic T cell proliferation in mixed lymphocyte reactions. CCR7 expression was blocked at the transcriptional level. IL-6 led to inhibition of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) binding activity, regulating CCR7 transcription. Neutralization experiments revealed that autocrine IL-10 partially contributed to CCR7 suppression in IL-6-treated DC. Thus IL-6, a cytokine once labeled as "pro-inflammatory" can mediate immunosuppressive functions, which may involve induction of the classical "anti-inflammatory" cytokine IL-10. Because IL-6 is expressed in response to various pro-inflammatory stimuli in vivo, this mechanism may contribute to down-regulating the immune response initiated by pathogens, in persistent infections or tumors.