Recent studies have established the existence of an innate immune system in the central nervous system (CNS) and implicated a critical role for this system in both normal and pathological processes. Astrocytes and microglia, normal components of the CNS, are the primary cell types that comprise the innate immune system of the CNS. Basic to their role during normal and adverse conditions is the production of neuroimmune factors such as cytokines and chemokines, which are signaling molecules that initiate or coordinate downstream cellular actions. During adverse conditions, cytokines and chemokines function in defensive and repair. However, if expression of these factors becomes dysregulated, abnormal CNS function can result. Both neurons and glial cells of the CNS express receptors for cytokines and chemokines, but the biological consequence of receptor activation has yet to be fully resolved. Our studies show that neuroadaptive changes are produced in primary cultures of rat cerebellar cells chronically treated with the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) and in the cerebellum of transgenic mice that chronically express elevated levels of IL-6 in the CNS. In the cerebellum in culture and in vivo, the neuroadaptive changes included alterations in the level of expression of proteins involved in gene expression, signal transduction, and synaptic transmission. Associated with these changes were alterations in neuronal function. A comparison of results from the cultured cerebellar cells and cerebellum of the transgenic mice indicated that the effects of IL-6 can vary across neuronal types. However, alterations in mechanisms involved in Ca(2+) homeostasis were observed in all cell types studied. These results indicate that modifications in cerebellar function are likely to occur in disorders associated with elevated levels of IL-6 in the cerebellum.