Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a proinflammatory cytokine of the IL-6 family, members of which signal through a complex of a cytokine-specific receptor and the signal-transducing subunit gp130. The interaction of IL-6 with the membrane-bound IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) and gp130 stimulates "classic signaling," whereas the binding of IL-6 and a soluble version of the IL-6R to gp130 stimulates "trans-signaling." Alternatively, "cluster signaling" occurs when membrane-bound IL-6:IL-6R complexes on transmitter cells activate gp130 receptors on neighboring receiver cells. The soluble form of gp130 (sgp130) is a selective trans-signaling inhibitor, but it does not affect classic signaling. We demonstrated that the interaction of soluble gp130 with natural and synthetic membrane-bound IL-6:IL-6R complexes inhibited IL-6 cluster signaling. Similarly, IL-11 cluster signaling through the IL-11R to gp130 was also inhibited by soluble gp130. However, autocrine classic and trans-signaling was not inhibited by extracellular inhibitors such as sgp130 or gp130 antibodies. Together, our results suggest that autocrine IL-6 signaling may occur intracellularly.
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