Interleukins Definition and Types

Cytokines that influence the growth, proliferation, and activity of leukocytes and other blood cells. Leukocytes produce interleukins. There are 12 major interleukins, identified as interleukin 1 (IL-1) through IL-12. Among those significant to leukocyte development are

  • IL-3, which influences blood stem cell differentiation into the various types of blood cells; leukocyte differentiation into granulocytes, monocytes, and lymphocytes; granulocyte differentiation into basophils; and lymphocyte differentiation into B-cell lymphocytes and T-cell lymphocytes
  • IL-5, which influences leukocyte differentiation into eosinophils
  • IL-7, which stimulates the bone marrow to produce lymphocytes

Interleukins Function

The interleukins also regulate the actions of leukocytes-monocytes, neutrophils, basophils, macrophages, B-cell lymphocytes, T-cell lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, mast cells, plasma cells-in the immune response, notably the inflammation process. The role of interleukins in the production and activity of basophils and neutrophils, the cells of the immune response largely responsible for inflammation, has come under scrutiny as a key factor in the development of conditions such as atherosclerosis.

Research is under way to investigate methods to manipulate interleukin production and levels to reduce the inflammatory response in such circumstances, thus diminishing or eliminating the disease process.

Other research is investigating therapeutic administration of interleukins to treat HIV/AIDS. Doctors currently use some synthesized interleukins therapeutically (notably IL-2) to treat certain types of cancer.

See also B-CELL LYMPHOCYTEBLOOD STEM CELLSINTERFERONS; LEUKOCYTEMACROPHAGE; MAST CELLMAJOR HISTOCOMPATIBILITY COMPLEX (MHC)MONOCYTENATURAL KILLER (NK) CELLT-CELL LYMPHOCYTE.

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