Interleukin-6 biology is coordinated by membrane bound and soluble receptors.

  • Stefan Rose-John Department of Biochemistry, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Olshausenstr. 40, D-24098 Kiel, Germany.;


Cytokine receptors exist in membrane bound and soluble form. Both forms bind their ligands with comparable affinity. While most soluble receptors are antagonists in that they compete for the ligands with their membrane counterparts, some soluble receptors are agonists. In this case, the complex of ligand and soluble receptor binds on target cells to a second receptor subunit and initiates signal transduction. Soluble receptors of the IL-6 family of cytokines are agonists. In vivo, the IL-6/soluble IL-6R complex stimulates several types of target cells not stimulated by IL-6 alone, since they do not express the membrane bound IL-6R. This process has been named transsignaling. We have shown that in several chronic inflammatory diseases like chronic inflammatory bowl disease, peritonitis and rheumatoid arthritis, transsignaling via the soluble IL-6R complexed to IL-6 is a crucial point in the transition from the acute to the chronic state of the disease. The mechanism by which the IL-6/ soluble IL-6R complex regulates the inflammatory state is discussed.