Acute IL-6 treatment increases fatty acid turnover in elderly humans in vivo and in tissue culture in vitro

E. W. Petersen, A. L. Carey, M. Sacchetti, G. R. Steinberg, S. L. Macaulay, M. A. Febbraio, B. K. Pedersen

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To determine whether IL-6 increases lipolysis and fat oxidation in patients with type 2 diabetes and/or whether it exerts this effect independently of changes to the hormonal milieu, patients with type 2 diabetes (D) and healthy control subjects (CON) underwent recombinant human (rh)IL-6 infusion for 3 h. Rates of appearance (Ra) and disappearance (Rd) of [U-13C]palmitate and [6,6-2Ha]glucose were determined. rhIL-6 infusion increased (P < 0.05) palmitate Ra and Rd in a similar fashion in both groups. Neither plasma glucose concentration nor glucose Ra/Rd was affected by rhIL-6 infusion in either group, whereas rhIL-6 infusion resulted in a reduction (P < 0.05) in circulating insulin in D. Plasma growth hormone (GH) was increased (P < 0.05) by IL-6 in CON, and cortisol increased (P < 0.05) in response to IL-6 in both groups. To determine whether IL-6 was exerting its effect directly or through activation of these hormones, we performed cell culture experiments. Fully differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes were treated with PBS (control) IL-6, or IL-6 plus dexamethasone and GH. IL-6 treatment alone increased (P < 0.05) lipolysis, but this effect was reduced by the addition of dexamethasone and GH such that IL-6 plus dexamethasone and GH had blunted (P < 0.05) lipolysis compared with IL-6 alone. To assess whether IL-6 increases fat oxidation, L6 myotubes were treated with PBS (Control), IL-6, or AICAR, a compound known to increase lipid oxidation. Both IL-6 and AICAR markedly increased (P < 0.05) oxidation of [14C]palmitate compared with Control. Acute IL-6 treatment increased fatty acid turnover in D patients as well as healthy CON subjects. Moreover, IL-6 appears to be activating lipolysis independently of elevations in GH and/or cortisol and appears to be a potent catalyst for fat oxidation in muscle cells.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number1 51-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytokines
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Metabolism

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