Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-17 synergistically promote viral persistence by inhibiting cellular apoptosis and cytotoxic T cell function

Wanqiu Hou, Young Hee Jin, Hyun Seok Kang, Byung S. Kim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Interleukin-6 (IL-6) plays an important role in the development and progression of inflammatory responses, autoimmune diseases, and cancers. Many viral infections, including Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV), result in the vigorous production of IL-6. However, the role of IL-6 in the development of virus-induced inflammatory responses is unclear. The infection of susceptible mice with TMEV induces the development of chronic demyelinating disease, which is considered a relevant infectious model for multiple sclerosis. In this study, we demonstrate that resistant C57BL/6 mice carrying an IL-6 transgene (IL-6 Tg) develop a TMEV-induced demyelinating disease accompanied by an increase in viral persistence and an elevated Th17 cell response in the central nervous system. Either IL-6 or IL-17 induced the expression of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL at a high concentration. The upregulated expression of prosurvival molecules in turn inhibited target cell destruction by virus-specific CD8+ T cells. More interestingly, IL-6 and IL-17 synergistically promoted the expression of these prosurvival molecules, preventing cellular apoptosis at a much lower ( < 5-fold) concentration. The signals involved in the synergy appear to include the activation of both STAT3 and NF-κB via distinct cytokine-dependent pathways. Thus, the excessive IL-6 promotes the generation of Th17 cells, and the resulting IL-6 and IL-17 synergistically promote viral persistence by protecting virus-infected cells from apoptosis and CD8+ T cell-mediated target destruction. These results suggest that blocking both IL-6 and IL-17 functions are important considerations for therapies of chronic viral diseases, autoimmune diseases, and cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8479-8489
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Virology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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