Glomerulonephritis (GN) results in proliferation of mesangial cells (MC), infiltration of inflammatory cells, and accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins in the mesangium. Locally secreted cytokines may stimulate MC growth or the secretion of inflammatory mediators by MC. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) may be an autocrine cofactor in the pathogenesis of mesangioproliferative GN. We studied the regulation of IL-6 secretion by MC in response to MC-derived cytokines and ECM proteins. IL-6 secretion is stimulated in a dose-dependent manner by IL-1 alpha, TNF-alpha, and PDGF. Constitutive and LPS-induced release of IL-6 by MCs is reduced on collagen type I (coll I) compared-with uncoated surfaces. IL-6 release on collagen type IV (coll IV), however, is enhanced. In addition, MC on coll I exhibit a sixfold higher growth rate than cells on uncoated surfaces. The reduction of cytokine secretion in parallel with the stimulation of MC growth by coll I suggests that exposure to coll I may result in a change from secretory to proliferative phenotype in vitro.