Interleukin-6: a cytokine for gerontologists

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1993 Feb;41(2):176-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1993.tb02054.x.


Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine that presumably plays its major role as a mediator of several of the acute phase inflammatory responses. These include inflammatory cell and lymphocyte activation and hepatocellular stimulation of acute phase protein synthesis. IL-6 expression is normally low, and serum levels are usually non-detectable in the absence of inflammation. However, with advancing age, serum levels become detectable, and it is proposed that this reflects an age-associated loss in the normal regulation of gene expression for this molecule. The cause of this is most likely multi-factorial, but there is evidence that it relates to an age-associated loss of T cell immunoregulatory functions as well as menopausal loss of estrogen. In any event, the "inappropriate" presence of IL-6 results in many changes typical of chronic inflammation. There is also speculation that IL-6 may contribute to the pathogenesis of several diseases of late-life including lymphoma, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease. In this review the biology of this important cytokine is presented and its relevance to gerontology is highlighted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / immunology
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression
  • Geriatrics
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism


  • Interleukin-6