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Abstract

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is required for normal liver regeneration, but the specific cellular source of this growth factor is unknown. We investigated whether this signal originates from the resident macrophage, the Kupffer cell. Using a murine model of bone marrow transplantation, we replaced recipient bone marrow–derived cells, including Kupffer cells, with cells of donor genetic phenotype. Recipients deficient in IL-6 (IL-6−/−) were lethally irradiated, then rescued with 107 donor bone marrow cells capable of expressing IL-6 (IL-6+/+). Conversely, IL-6+/+ recipients received IL-6−/− marrow. Successful engraftment was measured by the presence of the Y chromosome SRY locus in the livers of female recipients receiving male marrow, in situ IL-6 expression by Kupffer cells, and up-regulation of IL-6 in splenocytes after activation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Kupffer cell isolation in IL-6−/− females receiving IL-6+/+ male marrow clearly showed the presence of the SRY locus and IL-6 disrupted allele, whereas males receiving female marrow demonstrated no SRY or IL-6 signals, confirming the extent of replacement. Replacement of these cells in IL-6−/− mice with IL-6+/+ bone marrow successfully restored the regenerative response after partial hepatectomy (PHx) as indicated by signal transduction and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) activation and hepatocyte DNA replication. Alternatively, complete replacement of Kupffer cells in IL-6+/+ mice by transplantation with IL-6−/− cells significantly inhibited liver regeneration and was partially restored by administration of IL-6. This investigation demonstrates a paracrine mechanism by which cells of bone marrow origin, most likely Kupffer cells, regulate the regenerative capacity of the hepatocyte through IL-6 expression.