Treatment with the anti-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-11 (IL-11), in rabbits with TNBS-colitis reduces tissue damage but does not normalize body weight loss despite an increase in plasma levels of motilin, known to stimulate food intake. We investigated whether IL-11 could increase plasma levels of the anorectic peptide, leptin in non-inflamed and inflamed rabbits. In addition, the effect of IL-11 and leptin on motilin mRNA expression in the T84 cell line was tested. Five days post-inflammation, weight loss amounted 10.7+/-1.2%, but plasma leptin and motilin levels were unaffected. During IL-11 treatment, weight loss remained and plasma leptin levels dose-dependently increased with 27+/-5% (4 microg/kg day) and 108+/-7% (720 microg/kg day). Motilin levels increased in parallel with 23+/-12% or 256+/-97%. In non-inflamed animals, a prompt decrease in weight (-11.9+/-1%) was observed after treatment with the highest dose of IL-11 and this was associated with an increase in plasma leptin (70+/-18%) and motilin levels (113+/-7%). Both IL-11 and leptin stimulated motilin mRNA expression in T84 cells with a different time profile. In conclusion, the increase in plasma leptin levels during IL-11 treatment induces wasting in normal rabbits and may be one of the major factors involved in the maintenance of body weight loss in rabbits with colitis. Increase of motilin expression by leptin may be part of a feedback mechanism.