Indexed on: 12 Mar '16Published on: 12 Mar '16Published in: F1000Research
IL-21 is a type I cytokine produced by T cells and natural killer T cells that has pleiotropic actions on a wide range of immune and non-immune cell types. Since its discovery in 2000, extensive studies on the biological actions of IL-21 have been performed in vitro and in vivo. Recent reports describing patients with primary immunodeficiency caused by mutations of IL21 or IL21R have further deepened our knowledge of the role of this cytokine in host defense. Elucidation of the molecular mechanisms that mediate IL-21's actions has provided the rationale for targeting IL-21 and IL-21 downstream mediators for therapeutic purposes. The use of next-generation sequencing technology has provided further insights into the complexity of IL-21 signaling and has identified transcription factors and co-factors involved in mediating the actions of this cytokine. In this review, we discuss recent advances in the biology and signaling of IL-21 and how this knowledge can be potentially translated into clinical settings.