Interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1 beta, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) are considered to act as endogenous pyrogens. Because of the complex pattern of cross-inductions between these cytokines, the relative role of the central and peripheral production of these cytokines in eliciting the fever response has not yet been clarified. The purpose of this study was to determine the role of IL-6 in the fever response by making use of mice carrying a null mutation in the IL-6 gene. The intraperitoneal injections of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (50 micrograms/kg) and recombinant murine (rm) IL-1 beta (10 micrograms/kg), respectively, failed to evoke fever response in IL-6-deficient mice, whereas the same doses of LPS and rmIL-1 beta caused fever response in wild-type mice. The fever response could be induced in the IL-6-deficient mice by intracerebroventricular injection of recombinant human (rh) IL-6 (500 ng/mouse), whereas intracerebroventricular injection of rmIL-1 beta (100 ng/mouse) failed to produce fever response in the IL-6-deficient mice. These results suggest that central IL-6 is a necessary component of the fever response to both endogenous (IL-1 beta) and exogenous (LPS) pyrogens in mice and that IL-6 acts downstream from both peripheral and central IL-1 beta.