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Every nucleated cell can produce and respond to cytokines, extracellular proteic/glycoproteic mediators that constitute a complex, interconnected, and flexible signaling network, addressed to modulate cell behavior and homeostasis through the interaction with high-affinity surface receptors. These messenger molecules, whose main characteristics are potency, pleiotropism, and redundancy, primarily act in autocrine, paracrine, and juxtacrine way, but can also display systemic activity in endocrine-like modality. They are generally classified according to their cellular sources, three-dimensional structure, or biological functions. Among cytokines, interleukins (ILs) represent a fascinating and multifunctional group of immunomodulators that primarily mediate the leukocyte cross-talk (hence the name), and mainly regulate the immune cell proliferation, differentiation, growth, survival, activation, and functions. Up to 38 ILs have been so far identified, numbered according to the order of discovery, and grouped in different subsets, based on distinguishing structural/functional features. Due to their crucial role in regulating inflammation and immune response, ILs are known to be involved in the pathogenesis of human inflammatory/autoimmune diseases. Therefore, they have increasingly attracted great interest as effective or promising therapeutic targets. The biology and functions of the hitherto identified human ILs are reviewed and discussed: herein, ILs from IL-20 to IL-38 are presented.


Pieranna Fietta, Elvira Costa, Giovanni Delsante. Interleukins (ILs), a fascinating family of cytokines. Part II: ILs from IL-20 to IL-38. Theoretical biology forum. 2015;108(1-2):19-40

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PMID: 27167908

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