Interleukin-6 (IL6), also refered to as B-cell stimulatory factor-2 (BSF-2) and interferon beta-2, is a cytokine involved in a wide variety of biological functions . It plays an essential role in the final differentiation of B-cells into IG-secreting cells, as well as inducing myeloma/plasmacytoma growth, nerve cell differentiation and, in hepatocytes, acute phase reactants
A number of other cytokines may be grouped with IL6 on the basis of sequence similarity. These include granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (GCSF) and myelomonocytic growth factor (MGF). GCSF acts in hematopoiesis by affecting the production, differentiation and function of 2 related white cell groups in the blood. MGF also acts in hematopoiesis, stimulating proliferation and colony formation of normal and transformed avian cells of the myeloid lineage.
Cytokines of the IL6/GCSF/MGF family are glycoproteins of about 170 to 180 amino acid residues that contains four conserved cysteine residues involved in two disulphide bonds. They have a compact, globular fold (similar to other interleukins), stabilised by the 2 disulphide bonds. One half of the structure is dominated by a 4 alpha-helix bundle with a left-handed twist. The helices are anti-parallel, with 2 overhand connections, which fall into a 2-stranded anti-parallel beta-sheet. The fourth alpha-helix is important to the biological activity of the molecule.