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Keywords:

  • cytokines;
  • NGF;
  • rat;
  • PC12 cells;
  • differentiation

Abstract

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) on target cells binds to the specific IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) and subsequently induces homodimerization of the signal-transducing protein gpl30. Cells which express gpl30 but no IL-6R and which therefore do not respond to IL-6 can be stimulated by the complex of IL-6 and soluble IL-6R (slL-6R). Here we show that on rat pheochromocytoma cells (PC12), the combination of IL-6 and slL-6R but not IL-6 alone induces expression of c-fos, GAP-43 and neuron-specific enolase followed by neuron-specific differentiation and formation of a neuronal network. The differentiation was dose-and time-dependent and followed the same kinetics as nerve-growth factor (NGF)-induced differentiation. The responses of PC12 cells to IL-6/slL-6R and NGF were additive, suggesting independent signaling pathways. We demonstrate that activation of gpl30 generates a neuronal differentiation signal that is equivalent to and independent of trk/NGF receptor tyrosine kinase. Interestingly, the failure of IL-6 to induce differentiation of PC12 cells is not due to lack of surface expression of IL-6R as IL-6 alone triggered expression of GAP-43 mRNA and protein. We hypothesize that PC12 cells express more gp130 than IL-6R and that the extent of activated gp130 molecules determines the quality of the response.