The pleiotropic cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) controls both the peripheral and central components of the acute-phase response. These activities are mediated via the IL-6 membrane receptor, but probably also via agonistic soluble IL-6 receptors (sIL-6Rs). In the present study we conducted dose-response experiments with rats that were intracerebroventricularly i.c.v.) injected with recombinant human IL-6 and sIL-6R and determined body temperature, locomotor activity, food intake, and water consumption using radiotelemetry and continuous recordings of feeding and drinking. IL-6 injected i.c.v. at 1, 10, and 100 ng increased body temperature and decreased locomotor activity and food intake, but it did not affect water consumption. When 10 ng sIL-6R, which lacked detectable biological activity, was injected i.c.v. 1 h before 1 ng IL-6, the central effects of IL-6 were enhanced and prolonged, and this was not due to endotoxin contamination of the recombinant proteins. Our data suggest that IL-6 plays an important role in the regulation of body temperature, general activity, and food intake in sick animals. Moreover, we have shown for the first time that it is possible to potentiate the effects of a mediator in vivo by administration of the corresponding receptor, which is a novel pharmacological tool for increasing receptor capacity.