The physiological function of interleukin-6 (IL-6) within the central nervous system (CNS) is complex; IL-6 exerts neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects, and yet can also function as a mediator of inflammation, demyelination, and astrogliosis, depending on the cellular context. In the normal brain, IL-6 levels remain low. However, elevated expression occurs in injury, infection, stroke, and inflammation. Given the diverse biological functions of IL-6 and its expression in numerous CNS conditions, it is critical to understand its regulation in the brain in order to control its expression and ultimately its effects. Accumulating data demonstrate that the predominant CNS source of IL-6 is the activated astrocyte. Furthermore, a wide range of factors have been demonstrated to be involved in IL-6 regulation by astrocytes. In this review, we summarize information concerning IL-6 regulation in astrocytes, focusing on the role of proinflammatory factors, neurotransmitters, and second messengers. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.