Ciliary neurotrophic factor prevents behavioural deficits and striatal degeneration in rat and primate models of Huntington's disease. Interleukin- 6, another member of the cytokine family, and the chimeric molecule (IL6/IL6R) in which interleukin-6 and its soluble receptor are fused, have been shown to exert trophic action on various neuronal populations in the central nervous system. Therefore, we investigated the neuroprotective effect of these two molecules in the quinolinic acid model of Huntington's disease. LacZ-, interleukin-6- and IL6/IL6R-expressing lentiviral vectors were stereotaxically injected into the striatum of Wistar rats. Three weeks later the animals were lesioned through the intrastriatal injection of 180 nmol of quinolinic acid. The extent of the striatal damage was significantly diminished in the rats that had been treated with interleukin-6 or IL6/IL6R. The neuroprotective effect was, however, more pronounced with the IL6/IL6R chimera than with interleukin-6 as indicated by the volume of the lesions (38.6 +/- 10% in the IL6/IL6R group, 63.3 +/- 3.6% in the IL-6 group and 84.3 +/-2.9% in the control group). Quantitative analysis of striatal interneurons further demonstrated that the IL6/IL6R chimera is more neuroprotective than IL-6 on ChAT- and NADPH-d-immunoreactive neurons. These results suggest that the IL6/IL6R chimera is a potential treatment for Huntington's disease.