Patients with type 1 diabetes are at a risk of hypertension. However, the mechanisms behind the findings are not completely known. The aim of the present study was to investigate involvement of interleukin-6 (IL-6) on the contraction of abdominal aorta in rats with type 1 diabetes. IL-6 levels in the plasma of rats with streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes were determined by ELISA. The abdominal aorta was dissected free of fat and connective tissues and then cut into spiral rings. The endothelium-denuded strip was vertically suspended in tissue chambers containing 5 ml Krebs solution at 37 degrees C and bubbled continuously with 95% O2-5% CO2. The effects of phenylephrine (Phe) on the contractile responses of abdominal aorta were recorded. The effects of IL-6 and anti-rat IL-6 antibody on the Phe-induced response were also examined. Plasma levels of IL-6 increased time-dependently in rats with STZ-induced diabetes. Phe caused concentration-dependent contraction in aortic rings. Phe-induced contractions were higher in vascular strips of STZ-induced diabetic rats than that of control rats. Pretreatment of vascular strips with IL-6 for 1 h did not cause contraction but enhanced the contraction in response to Phe. Treatment of the vascular strips with an anti-IL-6 antibody for 1 h decreased the Phe-induced contractions. These results suggest that IL-6 causes vascular smooth muscle contraction in abdominal aorta of rats with type 1 diabetes.