Ten years have passed since the molecular cloning of interleukin 6 (IL-6) in 1986. IL-6 is a typical cytokine, exhibiting functional pleiotropy and redundancy. IL-6 is involved in the immune response, inflammation, and hematopoiesis. The IL-6 receptor consists of an IL-6 binding alpha chain and a signal transducer, gp130, which is shared among the receptors for the IL-6 related cytokine subfamily. The sharing of a receptor subunit is a general feature of cytokine receptors and provides the molecular basis for the functional redundancy of cytokines. JAK tyrosine kinase is a key molecule that can initiate multiple signal-transduction pathways by inducing the tyrosine-phosphorylation of the cytokine receptor, gp130 in the case of IL-6, on which several signaling molecules are recruited, including STAT, a signal transducer and activator of transcription, and SHP-2, which links to the Ras-MAP kinase pathway. JAK can also directly activate signaling molecules such as STAT and Tec. These multiple signal-transduction pathways intimately regulate the expression of several genes including c-myc, c-myb, junB, IRF1, egr-1, and bcl-2, leading to the induction of cell growth, differentiation, and survival. The deregulated expression of IL-6 and its receptor is involved in a variety of diseases.