Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is involved in angiogenesis. However, the underlying mechanisms are unknown. Using human cerebral endothelial cell (HCEC), we report for the first time that IL-6 triggers HCEC proliferation and migration in a dose-dependent manner, specifically associated with enhancement of VEGF expression, up-regulated and phosphorylated VEGF receptor-2 (KDR), and stimulated MMP-9 secretion. We investigated the signal pathway of IL-6/IL-6R responsible for KDR's regulation. Pharmacological inhibitor of PI3K failed to inhibit IL-6-mediated VEGF overexpression, while blocking ERK1/2 with PD98059 could abolish IL-6-induced KDR overexpression. Further, neutralizing endogenous VEGF attenuated KDR expression and phosphorylation, suggesting that IL-6-induced KDR activation is independent of VEGF stimulation. MMP-9 inhibitor GM6001 significantly decreases HCEC proliferation and migration (p<0.05), indicating the crucial function of MMP-9 in promoting angiogenic changes in HCECs. We conclude that IL-6 triggers VEGF-induced angiogenic activity through increasing VEGF release, up-regulates KDR expression and phosphorylation through activating ERK1/2 signaling, and stimulates MMP-9 overexpression.