IL-12: Keeping Cell-Mediated Immunity Alive



Dr P. Scott, Department of Pathobiology, 3800 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. E-mail:


Interleukin (IL)-12 has dominated the field of cell-mediated immunity since its discovery more than 10 years ago, and clearly plays an essential role in the development of Th1 cells under a variety of conditions. Recent studies now indicate that the importance of IL-12 is not limited to initiating an immune response, but may contribute to maintaining immunity. Thus, Th1 responses rapidly wane in the absence of IL-12, leading to a loss in protective immunity against intracellular pathogens, such as Leishmania and Toxoplasma. Determining how IL-12 maintains Th1 cells, and consequently cell-mediated immunity, will provide new insights useful in controlling the immune response, and may thus influence the design of new vaccines and immunotherapies.