Interleukin-6 actions in the hypothalamus protects against obesity and is involved in the regulation of neurogenesis

J Neuroinflammation. 2021 Aug 31;18(1):192. doi: 10.1186/s12974-021-02242-8.


Background: Interleukin-6 (IL6) produced in the context of exercise acts in the hypothalamus reducing obesity-associated inflammation and restoring the control of food intake and energy expenditure. In the hippocampus, some of the beneficial actions of IL6 are attributed to its neurogenesis-inducing properties. However, in the hypothalamus, the putative neurogenic actions of IL6 have never been explored, and its potential to balance energy intake can be an approach to prevent or attenuate obesity.

Methods: Wild-type (WT) and IL6 knockout (KO) mice were employed to study the capacity of IL6 to induce neurogenesis. We used cell labeling with Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), immunofluorescence, and real-time PCR to determine the expression of markers of neurogenesis and neurotransmitters. We prepared hypothalamic neuroprogenitor cells from KO that were treated with IL6 in order to provide an ex vivo model to further characterizing the neurogenic actions of IL6 through differentiation assays. In addition, we analyzed single-cell RNA sequencing data and determined the expression of IL6 and IL6 receptor in specific cell types of the murine hypothalamus.

Results: IL6 expression in the hypothalamus is low and restricted to microglia and tanycytes, whereas IL6 receptor is expressed in microglia, ependymocytes, endothelial cells, and astrocytes. Exogenous IL6 reduces diet-induced obesity. In outbred mice, obesity-resistance is accompanied by increased expression of IL6 in the hypothalamus. IL6 induces neurogenesis-related gene expression in the hypothalamus and in neuroprogenitor cells, both from WT as well as from KO mice.

Conclusion: IL6 induces neurogenesis-related gene expression in the hypothalamus of WT mice. In KO mice, the neurogenic actions of IL6 are preserved; however, the appearance of new fully differentiated proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons is either delayed or disturbed.

Keywords: Astrocyte; Brain; Cytokine; Diabetes; Metabolism; Neuron.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Ependymoglial Cells / drug effects
  • Ependymoglial Cells / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics*
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / metabolism


  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6