Exercise stimulates interleukin-6 secretion: inhibition by glucocorticoids and correlation with catecholamines

Am J Physiol. 1996 Sep;271(3 Pt 1):E601-5. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.1996.271.3.E601.


In experimental animals, stress and catecholamines stimulate endogenous interleukin-6 (IL-6) secretion, whereas glucocorticoids inhibit it. To examine whether physical stress alters the secretion of IL-6 in humans, and to what extent this is correlated with catecholamines and modified by glucocorticoids, we performed high-intensity treadmill exercise test runs on 15 male volunteers, in a double-blind crossover design, after pretreatment with placebo, hydrocortisone, or dexamethasone. Plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations peaked 15 min after the start of exercise, whereas plasma IL-6 concentrations peaked twice, 15 min and 45 min after the onset of the test run. There was no difference in either the epinephrine or norepinephrine peaks among the three treatments, but the net area under the curve for IL-6 was smaller after hydrocortisone or dexamethasone than after placebo and smaller after dexamethasone than after hydrocortisone. A positive correlation was observed between peak plasma epinephrine or norepinephrine and IL-6 levels at 15 min. These findings suggest that IL-6 secretion is stimulated during exercise, possibly by catecholamines, whereas exogenous glucocorticoids attenuate this effect without affecting the catecholamine levels.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Epinephrine / blood*
  • Exercise*
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / administration & dosage*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / blood*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Interleukin-6
  • Dexamethasone
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine