Tadashi Matsuda, Department of Biochemistry, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Tadamitsu Kishimoto, Department of Medicine III, Osaka University Medical School, 2-2 Yamada-oka, Suita-City, Osaka, Japan

Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine produced by various cells. The molecular cloning of the cDNAs encoding B cell stimulatory factor 2 (BSF-2), interferon (32, and 26 kDa protein showed that all these molecules are identical. Furthermore, hybridoma/plasmacytoma growth factor (HPGF) and hepatocyte-stimulating factor (HSF) were also found to be identical to this molecule and, therefore, this molecule has been called IL-6. Subsequent studies demonstrated that IL-6 acts not only on B cells but also on hematopoietic stem cells and hepatocytes and induces hematopoiesis as well as acute phase reactions. As summarized in Figure 1, it was also shown to act on T cells, nerve cells, keratino-cytes, renal mesangial cells, megakaryocytes and myeloma/plasmacytoma cells. Since antibody production, hematopoiesis, and acute phase reactions are three major responses against infection, inflammation and tissue injury, IL-6 may have a central role in host defense mechanisms. On the other hand, the deregulation of IL-6 gene expression was shown to be involved in the pathogenesis of polyclonal and monoclonal B cell abnormalities, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple myeloma.

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