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J Leukoc Biol. 2003 Jan;73(1):49-56.

A unique role for IL-23 in promoting cellular immunity.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cell Biology, Division of Monoclonal Antibodies, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Recent discoveries of interleukin (IL)-23, its receptor, and its signal-transduction pathway add to our understanding of cellular immunity. IL-23 is a heterodimer, comprising IL-12 p40 and the recently cloned IL-23-specific p19 subunit. IL-23 uses many of the same signal-transduction components as IL-12, including IL-12Rbeta1, Janus kinase 2, Tyk2, signal transducer and activator of transcription (Stat)1, Stat3, Stat4, and Stat5. This may explain the similar actions of IL-12 and IL-23 in promoting cellular immunity by inducing interferon-gamma production and proliferative responses in target cells. Additionally, both cytokines promote the T helper cell type 1 costimulatory function of antigen-presenting cells. IL-23 does differ from IL-12 in the T cell subsets that it targets. Whereas IL-12 acts on naïve CD4+ T cells, IL-23 preferentially acts on memory CD4+ T cells. This review summarizes recent advances regarding IL-23, providing a functional and mechanistic basis for the unique niche that IL-23 occupies in cellular immunity.

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