Modulation of IL-6 production and IL-1 activity by keratinocyte-fibroblast interaction

Ingeborg Boxman, Clemens Löwik, Lucien Aarden, Maria Ponec*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


The present study was undertaken to investigate whether modulation of interleukin-6 and interleukin-1 production occurs owing to keratinocyte-fibroblast interaction. Normal human keratinocytes or squamous carcinoma cells were cultured either alone or in the presence of human foreskin fibroblasts or murine 3T3 cells. All cells tested produced interleukin-6, and interleukin-6 levels were markedly increased when normal or malignant keratinocytes were co-cultured with fibroblasts. The bioassay (species independent) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (specific for human interleukin-6) together with use of complementary DNA probes specific for human or murine interleukin-6 revealed that fibroblasts are responsible for increased interleukin-6 levels. Moreover, interleukin-6 levels were increased when fibroblasts were cultured in conditioned media derived from normal human keratinocytes and squamous carcinoma cells-4 cultures. Interleukin-1α secreted by normal human keratinocytes and squamous carcinoma cells-4 cells was mainly responsible for the increased interleukin-6 production in fibroblasts. Although interleukin-1 activity increased linearly with the incubation time in squamous carcinoma cells-4 mono-cultures, interleukin-1 activity was low and remained unchanged in squamous carcinoma cells-4/3T3 co-cultures. Low interleukin-1 activity was most probably not due to inhibition of interleukin-1α production in squamous carcinoma cells-4/3T3 co-cultures because interleukin-lα messenger RNA expression in squamous carcinoma cells-4 cells remained unchanged in the presence of 3T3 cells. Furthermore, when 3T3 cells were incubated in conditioned medium derived from squamous carcinoma cells-4 cells, high interleukin-1 activity decreased to an undetectable level, suggesting that fibroblasts are involved in the suppression of interleukin-1 activity. The remaining interleukin-1 activity, however, was sufficient for maximal induction of interleukin-6 production in fibroblasts. These results suggest that the interaction between epithelial and mesenchymal cells is at least partly initiated by interleukin-lα secreted by the activated epithelial cell during skin injury or tumor invasion. Interleukin-1 in turn can induce modulation of the synthesis of various pro-inflammatory mediators and proteases in surrounding fibroblasts. An enhanced proteolytic activity and/or a possible induced production of an interleukin-1 inhibitor in fibroblasts and/or a receptor-mediated interleukin-1 consumption by fibroblasts will cause a decrease in interleukin-1 activity and thus exert a negative feedback.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-324
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • interleukin-6/interleukin-1/normal human keratinocytes/squamous carcinoma cells/fibroblast co-cultures


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