Role of interleukin-6 in growth failure: An animal model

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Indirect evidence suggests a link between factors produced during the inflammatory response and stunted growth. The demonstration of this link was provided by the observation that mice transgenic for the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), expressing high circulating levels of IL-6 since birth, show a marked decrease in growth rate leading to adult mice 50-70% the size of wild-type littermates. The growth defect is completely abolished by neutralization of IL-6. In these mice the production of GH is normal, while circulating levels of IGF-I are markedly decreased. Administration of IL-6 to wild-type mice results in a marked decrease in IGF-I levels. These observations show that in vivo high levels of IL-6 are associated with low levels of IGF-I. However, IL-6 does not directly affect IGF-I production both in vitro and in vivo. In contrast, markedly decreased levels of IGFBP-3 are present in the IL-6 transgenic mice and administration of IL-6 to wild-type mice results in a marked decrease in IGFBP-3 levels. In these mice the decrease in IGFBP-3 levels is associated with impaired formation of the 150 kD ternary complex, even in the presence of normally functional ALS. As a consequence, IL-6 transgenic mice show increased clearance of circulating IGF-I, suggesting that IL-6 decreases IGF-I levels by increased clearance. Proteolytic degradation of IGFBP-3 occurs in the IL-6 transgenic mice, suggesting that the decrease in IGFBP-3 could be at least in part due to proteolysis. The abnormalities of the IGF-I system observed in the IL-6 transgenic mice are similar to those found in patients with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, one of the chronic inflammatory diseases characterized by stunted growth and prominent production of IL-6. The IL-6 transgenic mice represent a faithful animal model of the growth impairment associated with chronic inflammation and may therefore provide information relevant to the understanding and treatment of this complication of inflammatory diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-27
Number of pages4
JournalHormone Research
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Animal model
  • Arthritis
  • Cytokines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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