R F Grimble, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Chemistry and Classification

Cytokines comprise a wide range of proteins that are released mainly from cells of the immune system in response to invasion of animals by pathogens or severe injury. Cytokines induce a state of inflammation in the body and modulation in the activity of the immune system. Research shows that cytokine production is not restricted to cells in the immune system, but that fibroblasts, endothelial cells, adipo-cytes, and specialized tissues, such as the ovary, produce cytokines. Although largely influencing immune function, a number of cytokines act as growth factors and lead to the proliferation and differentiation of a wide range of cell populations in the body. Cytokines are proteins of low molecular weight. They act generally in an autocrine or para-crine fashion and are active in the subnanomolar range. Cytokines are subclassified as interleukins (ILs), tumor necrosis factors (TNFs), interferons, and colony-stimulating factors. Examples from the family of cytokines are detailed in Table 1. All influence cells of the immune system; however,

Table 1 Main properties of the pro-inflammatory cytokines


Mol. wt

Cell sources

Main cell targets

Main actions

Interleukin-1a Interleukin-1fi


Tumor necrosis factor-a

33 000 \ 17500J

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