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Nat Rev Immunol. 2005 Sep;5(9):688-98.

Interleukin-21: a modulator of lymphoid proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation.

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Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1674, USA.


The interleukin-21 (IL-21)-IL-21-receptor system was discovered in 2000. It was immediately of great interest because of the homology of IL-21 to IL-2, IL-4 and IL-15, and of the IL-21-receptor subunit IL-21R to the beta-subunit of the IL-2 receptor, and because the IL-21 receptor also contains the common cytokine-receptor gamma-chain, the protein that is mutated in X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency. As we discuss, IL-21 has pleiotropic actions, from augmenting the proliferation of T cells and driving the differentiation of B cells into memory cells and terminally differentiated plasma cells to augmenting the activity of natural killer cells. Moreover, it has antitumour activity and might have a role in the development of autoimmunity, so these findings have implications for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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