Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a O-glycosylated, four alpha-helix bundle cytokine that has potent stimulatory activity for antigen-activated T cells. It is expressed by CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, gamma δ T cells, B cells, dendritic cells, and eosinophils. IL-2 is best known for its autocrine and paracrine activity on T cells. It drives resting T cells to proliferate and induces IL-2 and IL-2 R alpha synthesis. It contributes to T cell homeostasis by promoting the Fas-induced death of naïve CD4+ T cells but not activated CD4+ memory lymphocytes. IL-2 plays a central role in the expansion and maintenance of regulatory T cells, although it inhibits the development of Th17 polarized cells. Thus, IL-2 may be a key cytokine in the natural suppression of autoimmunity.
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