Mice with targeted defects in the γc subunit are devoid of NK cells, and have ∼ 90% reductions in total lymphocyte numbers.3 Although IL-21 was initially thought to mediate NK and T-cell development based on the ability of purified cytokine to stimulate the maturation of
these cells in vitro, the normal absolute number and ratio of NK and T-cell subsets in IL-21 receptor-deficient mice indicate that functionally redundant IL-21-independent pathways preserve normal NK and T-cell development.4–6 More recently, IL-21 has been implicated in the activation and differentiation of NK and specific T-cell subsets. For example, IL-21 boosts the cytotoxicity of NK cells stimulated with poly I:C or IL-15, and primes the proliferation buy Copanlisib of naive CD8+ T cells stimulated with artificial antigen-presenting Lumacaftor cell line cells that provide T-cell receptor and co-stimulation signals.6,7 Moreover,
IL-21 together with transforming growth factor-β potently stimulates CD4+ T-cell IL-17 production.8–10 These findings, together with the drastic reductions in IL-17 production by CD4+ T cells from mice with targeted defects in IL-21 or IL-21 receptor, suggest that IL-21 plays an important role in CD4+ T-cell T helper type 17 (Th17) differentiation.8–11 This apparent requirement for IL-21 in CD4+ T-cell IL-17 production has been reinforced by markedly reduced disease severity in specific inflammatory autoimmunity disorders such as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus in mice with 17-DMAG (Alvespimycin) HCl targeted defects in IL-21, IL-21-receptor, or treated with IL-21-receptor neutralization proteins.10,12–14 Collectively, these results demonstrate a critical role for IL-21 in the Th17 differentiation programme for naive CD4+ T cells, and suggest that strategies aimed at IL-21 neutralization are promising and intriguing new therapies for inflammatory autoimmunity. Unfortunately, therapies that moderate autoimmunity are often associated with reduced host defence
against infection. In this regard, recent studies clearly demonstrate the critical requirement for IL-21 in the long-term maintenance and functionality of CD8+ T cells that control persistent lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection.15–17 By contrast for other viruses (e.g. vaccinia, influenza, LCMV Armstrong strain) that primarily cause acute infection, IL-21 plays reduced or non-essential roles for the priming and maintenance of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells.15–18 Despite these findings for viral infection, the requirement and specific role for IL-21 in host defence against other types of potential human pathogens remains undefined. However, this is a critically important area because other pleiotropic cytokines [e.g.