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Science 324 (5934): 1525-1526

Copyright © 2009 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science


A Chronic Need for IL-21

Lisa D. S. Johnson, and Stephen C. Jameson

Chronic viral infections provoke a war of attrition between cytotoxic T cells (the CD8+ subclass) of the immune system and infected host cells. Although the CD8+ T cell response gradually whittles away at the viral load, the cells progressively become "exhausted" and lose function during a chronic infection (1). This exhaustion becomes more severe in the absence of helper CD4+ T cells, potentially leading to viral persistence and loss of virus-specific CD8+ T cells (1, 2). But how do CD4+ cells help? Three reports in this issue, by Elsaesser et al. on page 1569 (3), Yi et al. on page 1572 (4), and Fröhlich et al. on page 1576 (5), suggest an unexpected role for a specific cytokine produced by CD4+ T cells called interleukin-21 (IL-21) in controlling chronic viral infections.

Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Center for Immunology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.

E-mail: james024{at}

IL-21 Is a Double-Edged Sword in the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus-like Disease of BXSB.Yaa Mice.
C. G. McPhee, J. A. Bubier, T. J. Sproule, G. Park, M. P. Steinbuck, W. H. Schott, G. J. Christianson, H. C. Morse III, and D. C. Roopenian (2013)
J. Immunol. 191, 4581-4588
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Children With Islet Autoimmunity and Enterovirus Infection Demonstrate a Distinct Cytokine Profile.
W.-C. G. Yeung, A. Al-Shabeeb, C. N. I. Pang, M. R. Wilkins, J. Catteau, N. J. Howard, W. D. Rawlinson, and M. E. Craig (2012)
Diabetes 61, 1500-1508
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Induction of HLA-DP4-Restricted Anti-Survivin Th1 and Th2 Responses Using an Artificial Antigen-Presenting Cell.
M. Tanaka, M. O. Butler, S. Ansen, O. Imataki, A. Berezovskaya, L. M. Nadler, and N. Hirano (2011)
Clin. Cancer Res. 17, 5392-5401
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Role of antigen persistence and dose for CD4+ T-cell exhaustion and recovery.
S. Han, A. Asoyan, H. Rabenstein, N. Nakano, and R. Obst (2010)
PNAS 107, 20453-20458
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
IL-21 Deficiency Influences CD8 T Cell Quality and Recall Responses following an Acute Viral Infection.
J. S. Yi, J. T. Ingram, and A. J. Zajac (2010)
J. Immunol. 185, 4835-4845
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
T Cell Immunity in Acute HIV-1 Infection.
H. Streeck and D. F. Nixon (2010)
The Journal of Infectious Disease 202, S302-S308
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »

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