Recently, we have observed the insertion of a retrotransposon into the interleukin-6 (Il-6) locus of a mouse somatic cell line. Here we report the characterization of Il-6 genomic regions from both mouse and rat. Restriction site analysis, DNA sequence analysis, and computer-assisted search revealed eight retrotransposon-like elements distributed over a 25 kilobase (kb) mouse Il-6 region. In the rat, five different retrotransposons have been identified within a 17 kb Il-6 region. The retrotransposons belong to the LINE-, Alu I or Alu II families, or to a rat specific class of retrotransposons. Some of the retrotransposons exhibit characteristic features such as target site duplication and a poly A-tract. Remarkably, several retrotransposons map to different chromosomal locations in the mouse and rat. A genealogical tree of mouse, rat, and human Il-6 loci demonstrates a series of retrotranspositions that recently occurred in evolution. These results suggest that the Il-6 locus serves as a preferred target site for retrotransposon integration during evolution.