Cytokine receptors exist in membrane-bound and soluble forms. They bind their ligands with comparable affinity. Although most soluble receptors are antagonists because they compete with their membrane counterparts for their ligands, some soluble receptors are agonists. In this case, on target cells, the complex of cytokine and soluble cytokine receptor binds to a second receptor subunit and initiates intracellular signal transduction. The soluble receptors of the interleukin-6 (IL-6) family of cytokines--soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R), sIL-11R, and soluble ciliary neurotrophic factor receptor (sCNTFR)--are agonists. In vivo, the IL-6/sIL-6R complex stimulates several types of target cells not stimulated by IL-6 alone, as they do not express the membrane- bound IL-6R. This process has been named transsignaling. We have shown recently that in several chronic inflammatory diseases, such as chronic inflammatory bowl disease, peritonitis, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as in colon cancer, transsignaling via the sIL-6R complexed to IL-6 is a crucial point in the maintenance of the disease. The mechanism by which the IL-6/sIL-6R complex regulates the inflammatory or neoplastic state is discussed.