Interleukin-6 myokine signaling in skeletal muscle: a double-edged sword?

FEBS J. 2013 Sep;280(17):4131-48. doi: 10.1111/febs.12338. Epub 2013 Jun 18.


Interleukin (IL)-6 is a cytokine with pleiotropic functions in different tissues and organs. Skeletal muscle produces and releases significant levels of IL-6 after prolonged exercise and is therefore considered as a myokine. Muscle is also an important target of the cytokine. IL-6 signaling has been associated with stimulation of hypertrophic muscle growth and myogenesis through regulation of the proliferative capacity of muscle stem cells. Additional beneficial effects of IL-6 include regulation of energy metabolism, which is related to the capacity of actively contracting muscle to synthesize and release IL-6. Paradoxically, deleterious actions for IL-6 have also been proposed, such as promotion of atrophy and muscle wasting. We review the current evidence for these apparently contradictory effects, the mechanisms involved and discuss their possible biological implications.

Keywords: IL-6; growth/atrophy; inflammation; metabolism; myogenesis; myokine; regeneration; satellite cell; signaling pathway; skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Muscle Development / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscular Atrophy / metabolism*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Interleukin-6