IL-6-/- mice showed impaired leukocyte accumulation in subcutaneous air pouches. Defective leukocyte accumulation was not due to a reduced migratory capacity of IL-6-/- leukocytes and was associated with a reduced in situ production of chemokines. These observations led to a reexamination of the interaction of IL-6 with endothelial cells (EC). EC express only the gp130 signal transducing chain and not the subunit-specific IL-6R and are therefore unresponsive to IL-6. However, EC are responsive to a combination of IL-6 and soluble IL-6R as measured by the activation of STAT3, chemokine expression, and augmentation of ICAM-1. Activation by IL-6-IL-6R complexes was inhibited by an IL-6 receptor antagonist and potentiated by a superagonist. Hence, in vivo and in vitro evidence supports the concept that the IL-6 system plays an unexpected positive role in local inflammatory reactions by amplifying leukocyte recruitment.