In this study we aimed to examine a role for interleukin 6 (IL-6) and its receptor (IL-6R) in peripheral nerve regeneration in vivo. We first observed that cultured mouse embryonic dorsal root ganglia exhibited dramatic neurite extension by simultaneous addition of IL-6 and soluble IL-6R (sIL-6R), a complex that is known to interact with and activate a signal transducing receptor component, gp130. After injury in the hypoglossal nerve in adult mice by ligation, immunoreactivity to IL-6 was upregulated in Schwann cells at the lesional site as well as in the cell bodies of hypoglossal neurons in the brain stem. In the latter, upregulation of the immunoreactivity to IL-6R was also observed. Regeneration of axotomized hypoglossal nerve in vivo was significantly retarded by the administration of anti-IL-6R antibody. Surprisingly, accelerated regeneration of the axotomized nerve was achieved in transgenic mice constitutively expressing both IL-6 and IL-6R, as compared with nontransgenic controls. These results suggest that the IL-6 signal may play an important role in nerve regeneration after trauma in vivo.

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