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The IL-12 family of cytokines in infection, inflammation and autoimmune disorders.

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Cytokines are critical coordinators of the immune response necessary for resolving bacterial and viral assaults on the immune system. In particular, the IL-12 family of cytokines are key players in the regulation of T cell responses. These responses are orchestrated by monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells which produce the members of the IL-12 family of cytokines in response to infection. IL-27 and IL-23 are two cytokines that are related to IL-12; these cytokines share homology at the subunit, receptor, and signalling levels. IL-12 is composed of p35 and p40 subunits, which, when combined together form the bioactive IL-12p70. IL-23 is composed of the IL-12p40 subunit as well as the IL-23p19 subunit, which shares homology with IL-12p35. IL-27 is composed of EBI3 and p28. These three cytokines activate similar members of the JAK/STAT signalling pathways as a result of homology in their receptor components. Production of these cytokines by activated monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells results in the activation and differentiation of T cells. In spite of their similarity, each of these cytokines has specific roles in the regulation of immune responses. IL-12 is required for the induction of IFN-gamma production, critical for the induction of Th1 cells. IL-27 has been shown to play a role in the induction of Th1 cells from naive T cells, whereas IL-23 has been demonstrated to play a key role in the induction of the newly described Th17 cells. Recently, a novel heterodimeric and anti-inflammatory cytokine composed of the IL-12p35 and EBI3 subunits has been identified as IL-35. The biological properties of the IL-12 family of cytokines, the signalling pathways mediated by these cytokines and their role in infection, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases will be the focus of this review.

Keywords: these cytokines, signalling pathways, dendritic cells, monocytes macrophages, cytokines, cells, composed, induction, signalling, subunit, homology, responses, immune, family

Authored by Gee K, Guzzo C, Che Mat NF, Ma W, Kumar A. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Queen's University, Kingston ON, Canada.

Published in Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2009 Mar;8(1):40-52. The full report is available online. link   A subscription to the periodical may be required.

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