Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is considered an important mediator of acute inflammatory responses. Moreover, IL-6 functions as a differentiation and growth factor of hematopoietic precursor cells, B cells, T cells, keratinocytes, neuronal cells, osteoclasts, and endothelial cells. IL-6 exhibits its action via a receptor complex consisting of a specific IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) and a signal transducing subunit (gp130). Soluble forms of both receptor components are generated by shedding and are found in patients with various diseases such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and others. The function of the soluble (s)IL-6R in vivo is unknown. Since human (h)IL-6 acts on human and murine target cells, but murine IL-6 on murine cells only, we constructed transgenic mice expressing the hsIL-6R. We report here that in the presence of hsIL-6R, mice are hypersensitized towards hIL-6, mounting an acute phase protein gene induction at significantly lower IL-6 dosages compared to control animals. Furthermore, in hsIL-6R transgenic mice, the detected acute phase response persists for a longer period of time. The IL-6/IL-6R complex prolongs markedly the Il-6 plasma half-life. Our results reinforce the role of the hsIL-6R as an agonistic protein, help to understand the function of the hsIL-6R in vivo, and highlight the significance of the receptor in the induction of the acute phase response.

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