IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha injure the pancreatic beta-cell and may be involved in the pathogenesis of autoimmune type 1 diabetes. Because the induction of IL-6 appears to be an important host cell response to injury, we have examined whether IL-6 is produced by murine pancreatic islets or rat insulinoma (RIN-m5F) cells after their exposure to IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. Islet culture supernatants contained detectable IL-6 activity which was increased 6-fold when islets were exposed to IFN-gamma and 40- and 115-fold when islets were exposed to TNF-alpha and TNF-alpha + IFN-gamma, respectively. A mAb against murine IL-6 abolished (control and IFN-gamma) or significantly reduced (TNF-alpha and TNF-alpha + IFN-gamma) the IL-6 activity in islet supernatants. The magnitude for the effects of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha on the production of IL-6 from mouse islets was found to be both time and dose dependent. Northern blot hybridization analysis of islet total cytoplasmic RNA with a cDNA probe to murine IL-6 revealed a band at 1.3 kb, the intensity of which increased in islets exposed to IFN-gamma + TNF-alpha. IL-6 activity was also detected in culture supernatants from RIN-m5F cells exposed to TNF-alpha + IFN-gamma. Islets cultured with rIL-6 secreted higher levels of insulin compared with control islets. Pancreatic islet cells, in all probability beta-cells, produce IL-6, the expression of which is up-regulated by IFN-gamma and/or TNF-alpha. In addition to a possible role in regulating pancreatic beta-cell function we propose that IL-6 produced by the pancreatic beta-cell may act as a costimulator for autoreactive B and T lymphocytes in autoimmune diabetes.
- Copyright © 1989 by American Association of Immunologists