Muscle as an endocrine organ: focus on muscle-derived interleukin-6

Bente K Pedersen, Mark A Febbraio


Skeletal muscle has recently been identified as an endocrine organ. It has, therefore, been suggested that cytokines and other peptides that are produced, expressed, and released by muscle fibers and exert paracrine, autocrine, or endocrine effects should be classified as "myokines." Recent research demonstrates that skeletal muscles can produce and express cytokines belonging to distinctly different families. However, the first identified and most studied myokine is the gp130 receptor cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6). IL-6 was discovered as a myokine because of the observation that it increases up to 100-fold in the circulation during physical exercise. Identification of IL-6 production by skeletal muscle during physical activity generated renewed interest in the metabolic role of IL-6 because it created a paradox. On one hand, IL-6 is markedly produced and released in the postexercise period when insulin action is enhanced but, on the other hand, IL-6 has been associated with obesity and reduced insulin action. This review focuses on the myokine IL-6, its regulation by exercise, its signaling pathways in skeletal muscle, and its role in metabolism in both health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysiological Reviews
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1379-406
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Cytokines/physiology
  • Endocrine Glands/metabolism
  • Exercise/physiology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6/biosynthesis
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal/physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal/metabolism
  • Signal Transduction/physiology


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