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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 12, Issue 1, Pages 3-8

Human intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cells are potent producers of IL-6

1Department of Surgery, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri, USA
2Department of Surgery, DVA Medical Center, St Louis, Missouri, USA
3Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8109, 660 S. Euclid Avenue, St Louis, Missouri 63110-1093, USA

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background: Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a pluripotent cytokine, has traditionally been considered the product of proinflammatory cells. However, many other cell types have been shown to produce IL-6. Since intestinal inflammation is commonly associated with a vigorous systemic inflammatory response, we hypothesized that intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cells might contribute to that response by producing IL-6. We therefore studied the capacity of differentiated human intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cell lines to produce IL-6 in response to various proinflammatory stimuli.

Materials and methods: CCL-241, a human intestinal epithelial cell line, and HISM, a human intestinal muscle cell line, were grown to confluency and then treated for 24 h with various concentrations of lipopolysaccharide,Clostridium difficile culture extract containing both toxin A and toxin B, recombinant human tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), or recombinant human interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β). Supernatants were then collected for IL-6 determination using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Cell numbers were determined using a Coulter counter. For comparison, parallel studies were performed using phorbol ester-primed U-937 and THP-1 human macrophage cell lines.

Results: Both human intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cells produced IL-6 under basal conditions. In HISM cells, but not in CCL-241 cells, IL-6 release was increased slightly by treatment with C. difficile culture extract containing both toxin A and toxin B and with lipopolysaccharide. In both cell lines, IL-6 production was profoundly stimulated by treatment with IL-1β and less so with TNF-α. Combinations of high-dose TNF-α and IL-1β may have a slightly additive, but not synergistic, effect on IL-6 release. The amount of IL-6 produced by IL-1-stimulated intestinal cell lines was 70-fold higher than that produced by stimulated macrophage cell lines.

Conclusions: Both intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cells demonstrate the ability to release significant amounts of IL-6. The profound response to IL-1β and TNF-α stimulation by both cell lines suggests that human intestinal parenchymal cells, influenced by paracrine mediators liberated from proinflammatory cells, might significantly contribute to the overall systemic inflammatory response by producing IL-6.