The roles of interleukin-6 in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis. 2011;2011:765624. doi: 10.1155/2011/765624. Epub 2011 May 26.

Abstract

Several clinical studies have demonstrated that the humanized anti-interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antibody tocilizumab (TCZ) improves clinical symptoms and prevents progression of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the precise mechanism by which IL-6 blockade leads to the improvement of RA is not well understood. IL-6 promotes synovitis by inducing neovascularization, infiltration of inflammatory cells, and synovial hyperplasia. IL-6 causes bone resorption by inducing osteoclast formation via the induction of RANKL in synovial cells, and cartilage degeneration by producing matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in synovial cells and chondrocytes. Moreover, IL-6 is involved in autoimmunity by altering the balance between T(h)17 cells and T(reg). IL-6 also acts on changing lipid concentrations in blood and on inducing the production of hepcidin which causes iron-deficient anemia. In conclusion, IL-6 is a major player in the pathogenesis of RA, and current evidence indicates that the blockade of IL-6 is a beneficial therapy for RA patients.