Central deficiency of IL-6Ra in mice impairs glucose-stimulated insulin secretion

Alison D. McNeilly (Lead / Corresponding author), Adonis Yianakas, Jennifer G. Gallagher, Jamie Tarlton, Michael L. J. Ashford, Rory J. McCrimmon

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Objective: IL-6 is an important contributor to glucose and energy homeostasis through changes in whole-body glucose disposal, insulin sensitivity, food intake and energy expenditure. However, the relative contributions of peripheral versus central IL-6 signaling to these metabolic actions are presently unclear. A conditional mouse model with reduced brain IL-6Ra expression was used to explore how blunted central IL-6 signaling alters metabolic status in lean and obese mice.

Methods: Transgenic mice with reduced levels of central IL-6 receptor alpha (IL-6Ra) (IL-6Ra KD mice) and Nestin Cre controls (Cre +/- mice) were fed standard chow or high-fat diet for 20 weeks. Obese and lean mouse cohorts underwent metabolic phenotyping with various measures of energy and glucose homeostasis determined. Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion was assessed in vivo and ex vivo in both mouse groups.

Results: IL-6Ra KD mice exhibited altered body fat mass, liver steatosis, plasma insulin, IL-6 and NEFA levels versus Cre +/- mice in a diet-dependent manner. IL-6Ra KD mice had increased food intake, higher RER, decreased energy expenditure with diminished cold tolerance compared to Cre +/- controls. Standard chow-fed IL-6Ra KD mice displayed reduced plasma insulin and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion with impaired glucose disposal and unchanged insulin sensitivity. Isolated pancreatic islets from standard chow-fed IL-6Ra KD mice showed comparable morphology and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion to Cre +/- controls. The diminished in vivo insulin secretion exhibited by IL-6Ra KD mice was recovered by blockade of autonomic ganglia.

Conclusions: This study shows that central IL-6Ra signaling contributes to glucose and energy control mechanisms by regulating food intake, energy expenditure, fuel flexibility and insulin secretion. A plausible mechanism linking central IL-6Ra signaling and pancreatic insulin secretion is through the modulation of autonomic output activity. Thus, brain IL-6 signaling may contribute to the central adaptive mechanisms engaged in response to metabolic stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101488
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Metabolism
Early online date22 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Interleukin-6
  • Food intake
  • Energy expenditure
  • Insulin secretion
  • Autonomic output


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