Astrocytes contribute to the immunocompetence of the central nervous system (CNS) via their expression of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens and the production of inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). Of these cytokines, IL-6 is of particular interest because one of its many immune and inflammatory actions is the promotion of immunoglobulin synthesis, and it is thought that IL-6 expression within the brain exacerbates autoimmune diseases of the CNS, which are marked by local immunoglobulin production. Several stimuli induce astrocyte IL-6 expression, including such inducible endogenous factors as IL-1β and TNF-α. We have investigated the possibility that a constitutively present endogenous factor, the neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE), can induce astrocyte IL-6 production. We report that NE induces both IL-6 mRNA and protein in primary neonatal rat astrocytes, with optimal induction at 10 μM. IL-6 protein induction by NE is comparable to that seen with IL-1β or TNF-α, and NE synergizes with these cytokines for a ten-fold enhanced effect. In contrast to astrocytes, microglia are relatively unresponsive to NE, IL-1β and TNF-α for IL-6 production. Experiments with the β-adrenergic receptor agonist isoproterenol, and α and β-adrenergic receptor antagonists (propranolol, phentolamine, atenolol, and yohimbine) indicate that β2 and α1-adrenergic receptors are involved in NE induction of astrocyte IL-6 expression. These results help to further the understanding of neuron-glial interactions, and the role of astrocytes and adrenergic activity in immune responses within the CNS. © 1993.