Strongly compromised inflammatory response to brain injury in interleukin-6-deficient mice

Milena Penkowa, Torben Moos, Javier Carrasco, Hanne Hadberg, Amalia Molinero, Horst Bluethmann, Juan Hidalgo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

170 Citations (Scopus)


Injury to the central nervous system (CNS) elicits an inflammatory response involving activation of microglia, brain macrophages, and astrocytes, processes likely mediated by the release of proinflammatory cytokines. In order to determine the role of interleukin-6 (IL-6) during the inflammatory response in the brain following disruption of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), we examined the effects of a focal cryo injury to the fronto-parietal cortex in interleukin-6-deficient (IL-6-/-) and normal (IL-6+/+) mice. In IL-6+/+ mice, brain injury resulted in the appearance of brain macrophages and reactive astrocytes surrounding the lesion site. In addition, expression of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and metallothionein-I+II (MT-I+II) were increased in these cells, while the brain-specific MT-III was only moderately upregulated. In IL-6-/- mice, however, the response of brain macrophages and reactive astrocytes was markedly depressed and the number of NSE positive neurons was reduced. Brain damage-induced GM-CSF and MT-I+II expression were also markedly depressed compared to IL-6+/+ mice. In contrast, MT-III immunoreactivity was markedly increased in brain macrophages and astrocytes. In situ hybridization analysis indicates that MT-I+II but not MT-III immunoreactivity reflect changes in the messenger levels. The number of cell divisions was similar in IL-6+/+ and IL-6-/- mice. The present results demonstrate that IL-6 is crucial for the recruitment of myelo-monocytes and activation of glial cells following brain injury with disrupted BBB. Furthermore, our results suggest IL-6 is important for neuroprotection and the induction of GM-CSF and MT expression. The opposing effect of IL-6 on MT-I+II and MT-III levels in the damaged brain suggests MT isoform-specific functions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-357
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 1999


  • Brain injury
  • Brain macrophages
  • Gliosis
  • GM-CSF
  • IL-6 deficiency
  • Metallothionein-I+II
  • Metallothionein-III
  • Neurons


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