IL-6 signalling in exercise and disease

Biochem Soc Trans. 2007 Nov;35(Pt 5):1295-7. doi: 10.1042/BST0351295.


Low-grade chronic inflammation is a feature of Type 2 diabetes and appears to play a pathogenetic role in insulin resistance. It is well known that cytokines, besides their immunoregulatory roles, are important players in metabolism. Moreover, it has become evident that skeletal muscles express several cytokines, which belong to distinct cytokine classes. IL-6 (interleukin-6) is a pleiotropic cytokine produced by virtually all multinucleated cells including skeletal myocytes where it is produced in response to contraction. IL-6 is subsequently released into the circulation, where it works in a hormone-like fashion to induce lipolysis and fat oxidation. In more recent experiments, it has been shown that IL-6 infusion increases glucose disposal during a hyperinsulinaemic euglycaemic clamp in healthy humans. IL-6 treatment of myotubes increases fatty acid oxidation, basal and insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and translocation of GLUT4 to the plasma membrane. Furthermore, IL-6 rapidly and markedly increases AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase) and the metabolic effects of IL-6 were abrogated in AMPK dominant negative-infected cells. Finally, IL-6 mediates anti-inflammatory effects by stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines and by suppressing TNFalpha (tumour necrosis factor alpha) production. We suggest that IL-6 and other muscle-derived cytokines (myokines) may play a role in defending Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Disease*
  • Exercise*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / prevention & control
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Interleukin-6
  • Glucose