The soluble interleukin 6 receptor (sIL-6R) circulates at elevated levels in various diseases. This suggests that inflammatory mediators control sIL-6R release. Through examination of human neutrophils, it was found that the acute phase reactant C-reactive protein (CRP) activates a threefold increase in sIL-6R production. Maximal release occurred after 30-60 min exposure to CRP (50 μg/ml), and was mimicked by peptides corresponding to amino acid residues 174185 and 201-206 of native CRP. A third peptide fragment (77-82) had no effect. Differential mRNA splicing did not account for the CRP-mediated release of sIL-6R, since this isoform was not detected in conditioned media. Furthermore, stimulation of neutrophils with CRP or with peptides 174-185 or 201-206 promoted a loss of membrane-bound IL-6R, suggesting release by proteolytic shedding. The metalloprotease inhibitor TAPI had only a marginal effect on CRP-mediated sIL-6R release, suggesting that shedding occurs via a mechanism distinct from that previously reported. It well established that IL-6 stimulates the acute phase expression of CRP. Our current findings demonstrate a novel relationship between these two mediators, since CRP may affect IL-6-mediated inflammatory events by enabling formation of the sIL-6R/IL-6 complex.