Osteogenic cells mediate PTH-stimulated osteoclastic bone resorption by a yet unidentified mechanism. We show that primairy rat osteoblast-like cells and the clonal osteogenic sarcoma cell line UMR-106 produce interleukin-6 (IL-6) and that bPTH(1-84) and synthetic hPLP(1-34) stimulate this production dose-dependently. With both peptides a close relation between IL-6 and cyclic-AMP production was found, though for PTH concentrations higher than 2.10(-8) M a clear dissociation was observed. Significant IL-6 activity was also detected in media of cultures of 17-day-old fetal mouse radii and metacarpals which was clearly stimulated by PTH. The source of IL-6 in these bone explants seems to be the osteogenic (cartilage) cells. Treatment of bone explants with IL-6 induced osteoclastic resorption which, however, depended on the bone resorption system used. This bone resorbing action of IL-6 is exerted probably through an effect on the formation of osteoclasts (osteoclastogenesis) rather than on the activation of already existing mature osteoclasts. We suggest that IL-6 produced by osteogenic cells may be a mediator in PTH-stimulated osteoclastic bone resorption.