Increased levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) contribute to the development of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS); in renal cell carcinoma, the long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) SRLR upregulates IL-6. In this study, we demonstrated that the levels of the lncRNA SRLR were upregulated in PCOS patients with high expression of plasma IL-6 compared with heathy females. The levels of the lncRNA SRLR in the plasma had a positive correlation with expression of IL-6 in patients with PCOS but not in healthy females. Upregulation of the lncRNA SRLR in plasma could distinguish PCOS patients from healthy females. Overexpression of the lncRNA SRLR led to upregulation of IL-6 and promoted apoptosis of human granulosa-like tumour cells (KGN). Therefore, the lncRNA SRLR participated in PCOS by regulating cell apoptosis and IL-6 expression. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY: The lncRNA SRLR mediates its effects on apoptosis and IL-6 expression in PCOS and could be used to distinguish PCOS patients from healthy controls. Plasma circulating levels of the lncRNA SRLR may be a potential target for the treatment of PCOS.© 2020 The Authors. Cell Biochemistry and Function published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.