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Low molecular weight proteins or glycoproteins
released by one cell population in response to
microbes and act as intercellular mediator or
signaling molecules
Their production stimulates different responses
of cells involved in immunity and inflammation
Produce their effect only when they bind to
specific receptors called cell associated
differentiation (CD) antigens

Mechanisms of action of cytokines

In order to achieve their functions, two
mechanisms are elaborated by the cytokines:
Activation: in this case, they stimulate growth
and differentiation of lymphocytes
Effector: in this case, they activate different
effector cells to eliminate the unwanted
microorganisms and other antigens
They are also known to stimulate
differentiation of haematopoietic cells

Nomenclature of cytokines
Is based on their cellular sources
Monokines: when produced by mononuclear
Lymphokines: when produced by T
Interleukins: when produced by leucocytes
and act against other leucocytes

General properties of cytokines

Their secretion is a brief self limited event

Their action can be described as pleotrophic or
Cytokines can influence the synthesis and action of
other cytokines (synergism and antagonism)
Cytokine action may be local or sytemic (autokine,
paracrine and endocrine action)
Their production is doubled by their binding to
specific receptors on target cells
External signals regulate the expression of cytokine
receptors, thus responsiveness of cells to them

Functions of cytokines

Intercellular messenger molecules that evoke

particular biological activity after binding to a
receptor on a responsive target cell
Binding of a cytokine to its receptor induces
numerous physiologic responses including the
development of humoral and cellular IRs
Cytokines often induce the synthesis of other
cytokines resulting in cascades of cytokine
activity which renders the immune response
very potent and active

Functional categories of cytokines

Mediators and regulators of innate immunity:
produced mainly by phagocytes and most
stimulate early inflammatory reactions to
microbes. E.g. TNF alpha, IL-1, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12
Mediators and regulators of adaptive immunity:
produced by T lymphocytes in response to specific
antigen recognition and regulate growth and
differentiation of other lymphocytes e.g. IL-2, IL-4,
IL-5, IFN gamma etc

Functional categories of cytokines

Stimulators of haematopoiesis: these are
produced by bone marrow stroma cells,
leucocytes and other cells and stimulate
growth and differentiation of immature
leucocytes. E.g. IL-3, IL-7, monocyte colony
stimulating factor (MCSF), granulocyte colony
stimulating factor (GCSF)