Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional pro-inflammatory cytokine that is tightly regulated and expressed at low levels in healthy individuals. Increased IL-6 expression has been associated with a variety of diseases, including inflammatory conditions such as atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (obesity, myocardial infarction and type II diabetes). Cytokines including IL-6 and tumour necrosis factor alpha as well as acute phase proteins such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen are key biochemical risk factors for the development of these disease conditions. IL-6 is the key cytokine responsible for the stimulus of synthesis and secretion of CRP. IL-6 activates cell surface signalling via the assembly of IL-6, the IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) and the signalling receptor gp130. Assembly of the (hexameric) signalling complex of IL-6, IL-6R and gp130 occurs in a sequential manner and therefore this signalling complex lends itself to several potential sites for drug targeting. This review discusses some of the mechanisms of IL-6 signalling on various aspects of cardiovascular biology as well as some recent developments in drug targeting of this complex.
Keywords: Interleukin-6, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, endothelium, C-reactive protein, insulin resistance
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