Local interleukin-6 (IL-6) activity was studied using colonic mucosal tissues in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and inflammatory control patients. Active IBD specimens exhibited significantly higher IL-6 activity than control specimens in both cultures of isolated lamina propria mononuclear cells (LPMC) and mucosal tissues with an increased number of IL-6-producing cells. However, the activity in inactive IBD or inflammatory controls did not differ from controls. Northern blot analysis demonstrated IL-6 messenger RNA in LPMC and colonic epithelial cells isolated from active IBD specimens but not in control cells. Furthermore, immunofluorescent microscopic study of active IBD specimens showed more conspicuous staining of IL-6 in infiltrating LPMC (mostly CD68+ cells) and colonic epithelial cells. These results suggest that elevation of local IL-6 activity may be a characteristic feature of active IBD and both macrophages and colonic epithelial cells are the major cell types responsible for this phenomenon.