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Keywords:

  • IL-21;
  • CD4;
  • autoimmunity;
  • inflammation

Interleukin-21 (IL-21), a cytokine produced by various subsets of activated CD4+ T cells, regulates multiple innate and adaptive immune responses. Indeed, IL-21 controls the proliferation and function of CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes, drives the differentiation of B cells into memory cells and Ig-secreting plasma cells, enhances the activity of natural killer cells and negatively regulates the differentiation and activity of regulatory T cells. Moroever, IL-21 can stimulate nonimmune cells to synthesize various inflammatory molecules. Excessive production of IL-21 has been described in many human chronic inflammatory disorders and there is evidence that blockade of IL-21 helps attenuate detrimental responses in mouse models of immune-mediated diseases. In this article we briefly review data supporting the pathogenic role of IL-21 in immune-inflammatory pathologies and discuss the benefits and risks of IL-21 neutralization in patients with such diseases. © 2013 BioFactors, 39(4):368–373, 2013