The metabolic role of IL-6 produced during exercise: is IL-6 an exercise factor?

Proc Nutr Soc. 2004 May;63(2):263-7. doi: 10.1079/PNS2004338.


For most of the last century, researchers have searched for a muscle contraction-induced factor that mediates some of the exercise effects in other tissues such as the liver and the adipose tissue. It has been called the 'work stimulus', the 'work factor' or the 'exercise factor'. In the search for such a factor, a cytokine, IL-6, was found to be produced by contracting muscles and released into the blood. It has been demonstrated that IL-6 has many biological roles such as: (1) induction of lipolysis; (2) suppression of TNF production; (3) stimulation of cortisol production. The IL-6 gene is rapidly activated during exercise, and the activation of this gene is further enhanced when muscle glycogen content is low. In addition, carbohydrate supplementation during exercise has been shown to inhibit the release of IL-6 from contracting muscle. Thus, it is suggested that muscle-derived IL-6 fulfils the criteria of an exercise factor and that such classes of cytokines could be termed 'myokines'.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Muscle Cells / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Glucose