IL-6 is a pleiotropic cytokine involved in the physiology of virtually every organ system. Recent studies have demonstrated that IL-6 has a very important role in regulating the balance between IL-17-producing Th17 cells and regulatory T cells (Treg). The two T-cell subsets play prominent roles in immune functions: Th17 cell is a key player in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases and protection against bacterial infections, while Treg functions to restrain excessive effector T-cell responses. IL-6 induces the development of Th17 cells from naïve T cells together with TGF-β; in contrast, IL-6 inhibits TGF-β-induced Treg differentiation. Dysregulation or overproduction of IL-6 leads to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), in which Th17 cells are considered to be the primary cause of pathology. Given the critical role of IL-6 in altering the balance between Treg and Th17 cells, controlling IL-6 activities is potentially an effective approach in the treatment of various autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Here, we review the role of IL-6 in regulating Th17/Treg balance and describe the critical functions of IL-6 and Th17 in immunity and immune-pathology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy