Critical role for IL-6 in hypertrophy and fibrosis in chronic cardiac allograft rejection

Am J Transplant. 2009 Aug;9(8):1773-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2009.02706.x. Epub 2009 Jun 16.


Chronic cardiac allograft rejection is the major barrier to long term graft survival. There is currently no effective treatment for chronic rejection except re-transplantation. Though neointimal development, fibrosis, and progressive deterioration of graft function are hallmarks of chronic rejection, the immunologic mechanisms driving this process are poorly understood. These experiments tested a functional role for IL-6 in chronic rejection by utilizing serial echocardiography to assess the progression of chronic rejection in vascularized mouse cardiac allografts. Cardiac allografts in mice transiently depleted of CD4+ cells that develop chronic rejection were compared with those receiving anti-CD40L therapy that do not develop chronic rejection. Echocardiography revealed the development of hypertrophy in grafts undergoing chronic rejection. Histologic analysis confirmed hypertrophy that coincided with graft fibrosis and elevated intragraft expression of IL-6. To elucidate the role of IL-6 in chronic rejection, cardiac allograft recipients depleted of CD4+ cells were treated with neutralizing anti-IL-6 mAb. IL-6 neutralization ameliorated cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, graft fibrosis, and prevented deterioration of graft contractility associated with chronic rejection. These observations reveal a new paradigm in which IL-6 drives development of pathologic hypertrophy and fibrosis in chronic cardiac allograft rejection and suggest that IL-6 could be a therapeutic target to prevent this disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Cardiomegaly / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Graft Rejection / diagnostic imaging
  • Graft Rejection / metabolism*
  • Graft Rejection / pathology*
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Heart Transplantation / pathology*
  • Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Transplantation, Homologous


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Interleukin-6