The effect of interleukin 6 (IL-6) upon arachidonic acid (AA) metabolism was studied in cultured bovine vascular endothelial cells (BVECs). Although, in those BVECs pretreated with IL-6 for 48 h, there was no effect upon cell proliferation, it was discovered that IL-6 suppressed the conversion of AA to prostaglandin I2 (PGI2) in cellular homogenates. First signs of the suppression occurred 3 h after incubation, and thereafter the suppression increased with time until it leveled off at 12 h. This effect of IL-6 was concentration-dependent, ranging from 20 ng/ml to a maximum of 100 ng/ml with IL-6 at 47% of control. IL-6 had no effect upon AA conversion when exogenously added to the BVEC homogenates. To investigate the mechanism of the suppression induced by IL-6, we studied its effect upon PGI2 synthesizing enzymes. We found that IL-6 had no effect upon the release of AA from phospholipids, but inhibited cyclooxygenase, the key enzyme for PGI2 production from AA. To amplify PGI2 production, AA was added exogenously to both control and IL-6-treated BVECs, and in this case also, the conversion activity in IL-6-treated BVEC's was suppressed. Through immunoblot analysis with an antibody to cyclooxygenase, it was determined that the level of cyclooxygenase protein was lowered in IL-6-treated cells. This is the first report to confirm down expression of cyclooxygenase in addition to the first observation as to the effect of IL-6 on endothelial cells.