Interleukin-6, a cytokine produced by various cell types, has a major role in inflammatory and immunological reactions. To define its potential role in inflammatory bowel disease, its concentrations in endoscopic biopsy samples from patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease were measured. The involved colonic mucosa from active disease was found to contain significantly larger amounts of interleukin-6 than that from inactive disease or normal controls. Colonic mucosal interleukin-6 levels correlated well with the grade of macroscopic inflammation, especially in patients with ulcerative colitis. The levels of interleukin-6 decreased in parallel with clinical improvement following the start of therapy in patients with both forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Mucosal interleukin-6 is thus concluded to accurately reflect the degree of colonic inflammation and may be importantly associated with inflammatory and immunological phenomena seen in inflammatory bowel disease.