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Interleukin 2: Wikis


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Interleukin 2

Human Interleukin 2 crystal structure
Available structures
1irl, 1m47, 1m48, 1m49, 1m4a, 1m4b, 1m4c, 1nbp, 1pw6, 1py2, 1qvn, 1z92, 2b5i, 2erj, 3ink
Symbols IL2; IL-2; TCGF; lymphokine
External IDs OMIM147680 MGI96548 HomoloGene488 GeneCards: IL2 Gene
RNA expression pattern
PBB GE IL2 207849 at tn.png
More reference expression data
Species Human Mouse
Entrez 3558 16183
Ensembl ENSG00000109471 n/a
UniProt P60568 n/a
RefSeq (mRNA) NM_000586 NM_008366
RefSeq (protein) NP_000577 NP_032392
Location (UCSC) Chr 4:
123.59 - 123.6 Mb
PubMed search [1] [2]

Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is an interleukin, a type of cytokine immune system signaling molecule, which is a leukocytotrophic hormone that is instrumental in the body's natural response to microbial infection and in discriminating between foreign (non-self) and self. IL-2 mediates its effects by binding to IL-2 receptors, which are expressed by lymphocytes, the cells that are responsible for immunity.


Discovery and characterization

IL-2.. was the first interleukin molecule to be discovered. The discovery of the first soluble "hormone-like" mediator of the immune system galvanized the field of immunology as the important role of cytokines had not been previously realized. A soluble factor mitogenic for lymphocytes was first found in 1965 in the culture media of mixed leukocytes and named Blastogenic Factor (BF).[1][2] Over the next decade many similar reports appeared that described mitogenic activities in lymphocyte conditioned media. A quantitative assay for T cell Growth Factor (TCGF) was developed based upon its activity to promote the long-term proliferation of T cells in culture.[3] Biochemical characterization of TCGF revealed it to be due to a variably glycosylated 15,500 dalton single protein molecule,[4] and the IL-2 molecule was first purified to homogeneity by immunoaffinity chromatography by Kendall Smith and his team at Dartmouth Medical School.[5] IL-2 was also the first cytokine shown to mediate its effects via a specific IL-2 receptor,[6] and it was also the first interleukin to be cloned and expressed from a complementary DNA (cDNA) library.[7] Thus, despite being designated the number 2 interleukin, it was the first interleukin molecule, receptor and gene to be discovered. It was designated number 2 because Smith's data at the time indicated that IL-1, produced by macrophages, facilitates IL-2 production by T lymphocytes (T cells).[8][9]

IL-2 signaling pathway

Subsequently, IL-2 was discovered to be a member of a family of cytokines, which also includes IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, IL-15 and IL-21. IL-2 signals through a receptor complex consisting of IL-2 specific IL-2 receptor alpha (CD25), IL-2 receptor beta (CD122) and a common gamma chain (γc), which is shared by all members of this family of cytokines. Binding of IL-2 activates the Ras/MAPK, JAK/Stat and PI 3-kinase/Akt signaling modules. More comprehensive details are provided in NetPath.

Physiology and immunology

IL-2 is normally produced by the body during an immune response.[10][11] When environmental substances (molecules or microbes) gain access to the body, these substances (termed antigens) are recognized as foreign by antigen receptors that are expressed on the surface of lymphocytes. Antigen binding to the T cell receptor (TCR) stimulates the secretion of IL-2, and the expression of IL-2 receptors IL-2R. The IL-2/IL-2R interaction then stimulates the growth, differentiation and survival of antigen-selected cytotoxic T cells via the activation of the expression of specific genes.[12][13][14] As such, IL-2 is necessary for the development of T cell immunologic memory, one of the unique characteristics of the immune system, which depends upon the expansion of the number and function of antigen-selected T cell clones.

IL-2 is also necessary during T cell development in the thymus for the maturation of a unique subset of T cells that are termed regulatory T cells (T-regs).[15][16][17] After exiting from the thymus, T-Regs function to prevent other T cells from recognizing and reacting against "self antigens", which could result in "autoimmunity". T-Regs do so by preventing the responding cells from producing IL-2[16] Thus, IL-2 is required to discriminate between self and non-self, another one of the unique characteristics of the immune system.

IL-2 has been found to be similar to IL-15 in terms of function.[18] Both cytokines are able to facilitate production of immunoglobulins made by B cells and induce the differentiation and proliferation of natural killer cells.[18][19] The primary differences between IL-2 and IL-15 are found in adaptive immune responses. For example, IL-2 participates in maintenance of T-Regs and reduces self-reactive T cells. On the other hand, IL-15 is necessary for maintaining highly specific T cell responses by supporting survival of CD8 memory T cells.

Uses in medicine

The World Reference Standard for IL-2 is produced by the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control in the UK. A recombinant form of IL-2 for clinical use is manufactured by Chiron Corporation with the brand name Proleukin. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cancers (malignant melanoma, renal cell cancer), and is in clinical trials for the treatment of chronic viral infections, and as a booster (adjuvant) for vaccines. The use of IL-2 in HIV therapy has been found to be ineffective.

Many of the immunosuppressive drugs used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as corticosteroids, and organ transplant rejection (cyclosporin, tacrolimus) work by inhibiting the production of IL-2 by antigen-activated T cells. Others (sirolimus) block IL-2R signaling, thereby preventing the clonal expansion and function of antigen-selected T cells.


  1. ^ Gordon J, Maclean LD (1965). "A Lymphocyte-stimulating Factor produced in vitro". Nature 208: 795–796. doi:10.1038/208795a0. 
  2. ^ Kasakura S, Lowenstein L (1965). Nature 208: 794–795. doi:10.1038/208794a0. 
  3. ^ Gillis S, Ferm M, Ou W, Smith KA (1978). "T cell growth factor: Parameters of production and a quantitative microassay for activity". J. Immunol. 120: 2027–2032. 
  4. ^ Robb R, Smith KA (1981). "Heterogeneity of human T-cell growth factor(s) due to variable glycosylation". Mol. Immunol. 18: 1087–94. doi:10.1016/0161-5890(81)90024-9. PMID 6977702. 
  5. ^ Smith KA, Favata MF, Oroszlan S (1983). "Production and characterization of monoclonal antibodies to human interleukin 2: strategy and tactics". J. Immunol. 131: 1808. PMID 6352804. 
  6. ^ Robb RJ, Munck A, Smith KA (1981). "T cell growth factor receptors. Quantitation, specificity, and biological relevance". J. Exp. Med. 154 (5): 1455–74. doi:10.1084/jem.154.5.1455. PMID 6975347. 
  7. ^ Taniguchi T, Matsui H, Fujita T, Takaoka C, Kashima N, Yoshimoto R, Hamuro J (1983). "Structure and expression of a cloned cDNA for human interleukin-2". Nature 302 (5906): 305. doi:10.1038/302305a0. PMID 6403867. 
  8. ^ Smith KA, Lachman LB, Oppenheim JJ, Favata MF (1980). "The functional relationship of the interleukins". J. Exp. Med. 151 (6): 1551–6. doi:10.1084/jem.151.6.1551. PMID 6770028. 
  9. ^ Smith KA, Gilbride KJ, Favata MF (1980). "Lymphocyte activating factor promotes T-cell growth factor production by cloned murine lymphoma cells". Nature 287 (5785): 853–5. doi:10.1038/287853a0. PMID 6776414. 
  10. ^ Cantrell DA, Smith KA (1984). "The interleukin-2 T-cell system: a new cell growth model". Science. 224: 1312–6. doi:10.1126/science.6427923. PMID 6427923. 
  11. ^ Smith KA (1988). "Interleukin-2: inception, impact, and implications". Science. 240: 1169–76. doi:10.1126/science.3131876. PMID 3131876. 
  12. ^ Stern J, Smith KA (1986). "Interleukin-2 induction of T-cell G1 progression and c-myb expression". Science. 233: 203–6. doi:10.1126/science.3523754. PMID 3523754. 
  13. ^ Beadling C, Johnson KW, Smith KA (1993). "Isolation of interleukin 2-induced immediate-early genes". Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 90: 2719–23. doi:10.1073/pnas.90.7.2719. PMID 7681987. 
  14. ^ }Beadling CB, Smith KA (2002). "DNA array analysis of interleukin-2-regulated immediate/early genes". Med. Immunol. 1: 2. doi:10.1186/1476-9433-1-2. PMID 12459040. 
  15. ^ Sakaguchi S, Sakaguchi N, Asano M, Itoh M, Toda M (1995). "Immunologic self-tolerance maintained by activated T cells expressing IL-2 receptor alpha-chains (CD25). Breakdown of a single mechanism of self-tolerance causes various autoimmune diseases". J. Immunol. 155: 1151–64. PMID 7636184. 
  16. ^ a b Thornton AM, Shevach EM (1998). "CD4+CD25+ immunoregulatory T cells suppress polyclonal T cell activation in vitro by inhibiting interleukin 2 production". J. Exp. Med. 188: 287–96. doi:10.1084/jem.188.2.287. PMID 9670041. 
  17. ^ Thornton AM, Donovan EE, Piccirillo CA, Shevach EM (2004). "Cutting edge: IL-2 is critically required for the in vitro activation of CD4+CD25+ T cell suppressor function". J. Immunol. 172: 6519–23. PMID 15153463. 
  18. ^ a b Waldmann TA (2006). "The biology of interleukin-2 and interleukin-15: implications for cancer therapy and vaccine design". Nature Rev. Immun. 6 (8): 595–601. doi:10.1038/nri1901. PMID 16868550. 
  19. ^ Waldmann TA, Tagaya Y (1999). "The multifaceted regulation of interleukin-15 expression and the role of this cytokine in NK cell differentiation and host response to intracellular pathogens". Annu. Rev. Immunol. 17: 19–49. doi:10.1146/annurev.immunol.17.1.19. PMID 10358752. 

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