The cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) is an important mediator of inflammatory and immune responses in the periphery. IL-6 is produced in the periphery and acts systemically to induce growth and differentiation of cells in the immune and hematopoietic systems and to induce and coordinate the different elements of the acute-phase response. In addition to these peripheral actions, recent studies indicate that IL-6 is also produced within the central nervous system (CNS) and may play an important role in a variety of CNS functions such as cell-to-cell signaling, coordination of neuroimmune responses, protection of neurons from insult, as well as neuronal differentiation, growth and survival. IL-6 may also contribute to the etiology of neuropathological disorders. Elevated levels of IL-6 in the CNS are found in several neurological disorders including AIDS dementia complex, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, CNS trauma, and viral and bacterial meningitis. Moreover, several studies have shown that chronic overexpression of IL-6 in transgenic mice can lead to significant neuroanatomical and neurophysiological changes in the CNS similar to that commonly observed in various neurological diseases. Thus, it appears that IL-6 may play a role in both physiological and pathophysiological processes in the CNS.