Cytokines are a class of small molecule proteins secreted by cells that mediate and regulate immune processes, and they act in an autocrine, paracrine and endocrine manner. More than 200 types of human cytokines have been identified, which can be generally classified into interleukins, interferons, tumor necrosis factors, colony-stimulating factors, chemokines, growth factors, etc. according to their structure as well as function.
Interleukin (IL) was named after a cytokine that is secreted by white blood cells and acts among them. However, it has since been discovered that it can also be produced by and act on other cells. Nearly 40 interleukins have been identified and are given L serial numbers in the order in which they were discovered. For example, IL-2 is produced by activated T cells and can enhance the growth and proliferation of T cells themselves; IL-12 can be produced by dendritic cells, B cells, and monocytes-macrophages and can induce the directed differentiation of T cells into type 1 helper T cells.
Interferons (IFN) are named for their ability to interfere with viral infection and replication. More than 10 types of interferons have been identified and can be classified into alpha, beta and gamma (α, β and γ) types, which are subdivided into different subtypes. α and β interferons are mainly produced by virus-infected cells, while γ interferons are mainly produced by activated T cells and natural killer cells.
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is named after its initial discovery that it can cause hemorrhagic necrosis in tumors. There are two types of TNF: TNF-α and TNF-β. The former is mainly secreted by activated monocytes-macrophages, while the latter is mainly secreted by activated T cells.
Colony stimulating factor (CSF) is a cytokine that stimulates the proliferation and differentiation of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells, etc., to form corresponding cell clones in semi-solid medium.
Chemokines are chemotactic cytokines that are secreted by a variety of cells.
Growth factor (GF) is a group of cytokines that promote the growth and differentiation of corresponding cells, such as nerve growth factor (NGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), etc. It has an important role in the development and differentiation of immune cells, immune response and immune regulation.
Cytokines play an important role in the development and differentiation of immune cells, immune response and immune regulation. However, it is also a “double-edged sword”, which can be involved in the development of various diseases under certain conditions. For example, during the immune response, immune cells secrete large amounts of cytokines, which in turn stimulate immune cells. If this positive feedback regulation fails, a cytokine storm will result. Cytokine storms can occur in a variety of diseases, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and influenza.
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