Interleukin-4 (IL-4), also known as B cell-stimulatory factor-1, is a monomeric, approximately 13 kDa‑18 kDa Th2 cytokine that shows pleiotropic effects during immune responses. It is a glycosylated polypeptide that contains three intrachain disulfide bridges and adopts a bundled four alpha-helix structure. IL-4 exerts its effects through two receptor complexes. The type I receptor, which is expressed on hematopoietic cells, is a heterodimer of the ligand binding IL-4 R alpha and the common gamma chain (a shared subunit of the receptors for IL-2, 7, 9, 15, and 21). The type II receptor on nonhematopoietic cells consists of IL-4 R alpha and IL‑13 R alpha 1. The type II receptor also transduces IL-13 mediated signals. IL-4 is primarily expressed by Th2-biased CD4+ T cells, mast cells, basophils, and eosinophils. It promotes cell proliferation, survival, and immunoglobulin class switch to IgG4 and IgE in human B cells, acquisition of the Th2 phenotype by naïve CD4+ T cells, priming and chemotaxis of mast cells, eosinophils, and basophils, and the proliferation and activation of epithelial cells. IL-4 plays a dominant role in the development of allergic inflammation and asthma.
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