Background: A reverse association between cholesterol level and cardiovascular disease mortality is observed in hemodialysis (HD) patients; this paradoxical relationship may be explained by the coexistence of inflammation. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a central regulator of inflammation; its action is augmented by the soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R) and inhibited by the soluble gp130 (sgp130). In order to investigate the potential association of inflammation with cholesterol levels in the HD population, release of soluble IL-6 components by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was measured in two groups of HD patients with distinctly different lipid profile and in a control group. Methods: Twenty-two HD patients with low serum cholesterol (range 85–171 mg/dl), 23 HD patients with high cholesterol (189–342 mg/dl) and 21 normolipidemic non-renal failure subjects were enrolled in the study. IL-6, sIL-6R and sgp130 were measured by ELISA in the serum and in the supernatant collected from cell cultures of activated or resting PBMCs isolated from all three groups. Results: Serum IL-6 and sgp130 level was higher while sIL-6R was lower in both groups of HD patients compared to the control group. The ex-vivo release of the IL-6 and sgp130 by unstimulated PBMCs did not differ significantly between the three groups but that of the sIL-6R was higher in non-renal failure than in hypercholesterolemic HD subjects. Production of sIL-6R by stimulated PBMCs was higher in low-cholesterol HD patients (p < 0.001) and the same was valid for the sgp130 release (p = 0.034). Release of IL-6 by activated PBMCs was higher in the low-cholesterol compared to the high-cholesterol HD patients group (p = 0.011 for post hoc test). Major serum lipid fractions were inversely correlated to IL-6 and sIL-6R production from stimulated PBMCs in HD but not in non-renal failure subjects. Finally, release of the sgp130 by PBMCs was significantly reduced in 13 hypertriglyceridemic – and hypercholesterolemic – HD patients. Conclusion: Production of soluble components of a crucial pro-inflammatory and potentially atherogenic cytokine, namely the IL-6, by stimulated PBMCs appears to be inversely correlated with the serum cholesterol levels in HD patients.

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