The cytokine IL-6, which is released upon peripheral immune challenge, is critical for the febrile response, but the mechanism by which IL-6 is pyrogenic has remained obscure. Here we generated mice with deletion of the membrane bound IL-6 receptor α (IL-6Rα) on neural cells, on peripheral nerves, on fine sensory afferent fibers, and on brain endothelial cells, respectively, and examined its role for the febrile response to peripherally injected lipopolysaccharide. We show that IL-6Rα on neural cells, peripheral nerves, and fine sensory afferents are dispensable for the lipopolysaccharide-induced fever, whereas IL-6Rα in the brain endothelium plays an important role. Hence deletion of IL-6Rα on brain endothelial cells strongly attenuated the febrile response, and also led to reduced induction of the prostaglandin synthesizing enzyme Cox-2 in the hypothalamus, the temperature-regulating center in the brain, as well as reduced expression of SOCS3, suggesting involvement of the STAT signaling pathway. Furthermore, deletion of STAT3 in the brain endothelium also resulted in attenuated fever. These data show that IL-6, when endogenously released during systemic inflammation, is pyrogenic by binding to IL-6Rα on brain endothelial cells to induce prostaglandin synthesis in these cells, probably in concerted action with other peripherally released cytokines.
Keywords: STAT3; blood–brain barrier; cell-specific gene deletions; fever; interleukin-6; prostaglandins.
Copyright © 2014 the authors 0270-6474/14/3415957-05$15.00/0.