Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pleiotropic, alpha-helical, 22-28 kDa phosphorylated and variably glycosylated cytokine that plays important roles in the acute phase reaction, inflammation, hematopoiesis, bone metabolism, and cancer progression. Mature human IL-6 is 183 amino acids (aa) in length. IL-6 induces signaling through a cell surface heterodimeric receptor complex composed of a ligand binding subunit (IL-6 R alpha) and a signal transducing subunit (gp130). IL-6 binds to IL-6 R alpha, triggering IL-6 R alpha association with gp130 and gp130 dimerization. IL-6, along with TNF-alpha and IL-1, drives the acute inflammatory response and the transition from acute inflammation to either acquired immunity or chronic inflammatory disease. When dysregulated, it contributes to chronic inflammation in obesity, insulin resistance, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, sepsis, and atherosclerosis. IL-6 can also function as an anti-inflammatory molecule, as in skeletal muscle where it is secreted in response to exercise. In addition, it enhances hematopoietic stem cell proliferation and the differentiation of Th17 cells, memory B cells, and plasma cells.
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