Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a potent myeloid mitogen, and the immunosuppressive prostanoid prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) are elevated following thermal injury and sepsis. We have previously demonstrated that bone marrow myeloid commitment shifts toward monocytopoiesis and away from granulocytopoiesis during thermal injury and sepsis and that PGE2 plays a central role in this alteration. Here we investigated whether PGE2 can modulate IL-6-stimulated growth in the promyelocytic cell line, NFS-60, by down-regulating IL-6 receptor (IL-6r) expression. Exposure of NFS-60 cells to PGE2 suppressed IL-6-stimulated proliferation as well as IL-6r expression. Receptor down-regulation is functionally significant since IL-6-induced signal transduction through activators of transcription (STAT)-3 is also decreased. Down-regulation of IL-6r correlated with the ability of PGE2 to arrest cells in the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle. PGE2 appears to signal through EP2 receptors. Butaprost (EP2 agonist) but not sulprostone (EP3 agonist) inhibited IL-6-stimulated proliferation. In addition, an EP2 antagonist (AH6809) alleviated the anti-proliferative effects of PGE2. NFS-60 cells express predominantly EP2 and EP4 receptors. While PGE2 down-regulated both the IL-6r protein and mRNA expression, it had no influence on EP2 or EP4 mRNA expression. The present study demonstrates that PGE2 is a potent down-regulator of IL-6r expression and thus may provide a mechanistic explanation for the granulocytopenia seen in thermal injury and sepsis.

Abbreviations used: Bt2cAMP, dibutyryl cAMP; CSF, colony-stimulating factor; FBS, fetal bovine serum; IL-6, interleukin-6; IL-6r, IL-6 receptor; PGE2, prostaglandin E2; RT-PCR, reverse transcriptase PCR; STAT, signal transduction and activators of transcription.

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