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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

IL-21 up-regulates the expression of genes associated with innate immunity and Th1 response.

IL-21 is a recently characterized T cell-derived cytokine that regulates NK and T cell function. IL-21R shares the common gamma-chain (gamma(c)) with the receptors for IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, and IL-15. Despite the same gamma(c), these cytokines have different effects on diverse cells. In this study, we have studied IL-15- and IL-21-induced gene expression in human primary NK and T cells and the NK-92 cell line. Both IL-15 and IL-21 rapidly induced mRNA synthesis for IFN-gamma, T-bet, IL-2Ralpha, IL-12Rbeta2, IL-18R, and myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88), the genes that are important in activating innate immunity and Th1 response. IL-15 induced STAT5 DNA binding to the IL-2Ralpha IFN-gamma-activated sequence (GAS), MyD88 GAS, and c-cis-inducible elements, whereas IL-21 induced STAT3 DNA binding to MyD88 GAS and c-sis-inducible elements. IL-21- induced STAT3 activation was verified by immunoprecipitation and Western blotting with anti-phosphotyrosine Ab. In addition, pretreatment of NK-92 cells with IL-15 or IL-21 strongly enhanced IL-12- induced STAT4 DNA binding to IL-2Ralpha GAS. The induction of IFN-gamma, T-bet, IL-12Rbeta2, and IL-18R gene expression in NK cells, along with STAT3 activation, suggests that IL-21 is involved in the activation of innate immune responses. Moreover, the enhanced transcription of these genes in T cells establishes a significant role for IL-21 also in the Th1 response.[1]


  1. IL-21 up-regulates the expression of genes associated with innate immunity and Th1 response. Strengell, M., Sareneva, T., Foster, D., Julkunen, I., Matikainen, S. J. Immunol. (2002) [Pubmed]
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