The transmembrane glycoprotein gp130 is involved in many cytokine-mediated cellular responses and acts therein as the signal transducing receptor subunit. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-11 (IL-11), in complex with their specific α-receptors, homodimerize gp130 and, as a consequence, activate the Janus kinase (Jak)/signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) signalling pathway in their target cells. So far, it is not clear whether gp130 is bound to these cytokines and their specific α-receptor subunits through identical or different epitopes. In order to study the interaction of IL-11 and IL-11R with human gp130 the soluble form of the recently cloned human IL-11R was expressed in baculovirus-infected insect cells. By a coprecipitation binding-assay it is demonstrated that IL-11 and IL-6 compete for binding to gp130. Using deletion and point mutants of gp130 it is shown that IL-11–IL-11R and IL-6–IL-6R recognize overlapping binding motifs on gp130. Moreover, using well-established Jak-deficient cell lines we demonstrate that STAT activation by IL-11 requires Jak1. Taken together, our data support the concept that IL-6 and IL-11 activate gp130 by very similar molecular mechanisms.

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