The role of interleukin 6 (IL-6) in the toxic sequelae of sepsis is controversial. To assess the part of IL-6 in inflammatory responses to endotoxin, we investigated eight chimpanzees after either a bolus intravenous injection of Escherichia coli endotoxin (n = 4; 4 ng/kg) or after the same dose of endotoxin with a simultaneous bolus intravenous injection of an anti-IL-6 mAb (30 mg; n = 4). Anti-IL-6 did not affect the induction of the cytokine network (tumor necrosis factor [TNF], soluble TNF receptors types I and II, and IL-8) by endotoxin, nor did it influence the occurrence of a neutrophilic leukocytosis and neutrophil degranulation, as monitored by the measurement of elastase-alpha 1-antitrypsin complexes. In contrast, anti-IL-6 markedly attenuated endotoxin-induced activation of coagulation, monitored with the plasma levels of the prothrombin fragment F1+2 and thrombin-antithrombin III complexes, whereas activation of fibrinolysis, determined with the plasma concentrations of plasmin-alpha 2-antiplasmin complexes, remained unaltered. We conclude that IL-6 does not have a feedback effect on the release of other cytokines after injection of endotoxin, and that it is not involved in endotoxin-induced neutrophilia or neutrophil degranulation. IL-6 is, however, an important intermediate factor in activation of coagulation in low grade endotoxemia in chimpanzees.

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