Structure, function, and inhibition of chemokines

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2002;42:469-99. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.42.091901.115838.


Chemokines are the largest family of cytokines in human immunophysiology. These proteins are defined by four invariant cysteines and are categorized based on the sequence around the first two cysteines, which leads to two major and two minor subfamilies. Chemokines function by activating specific G protein-coupled receptors, which results in, among other functions, the migration of inflammatory and noninflammatory cells to the appropriate tissues or compartments within tissues. Some of these proteins and receptors have been implicated or shown to be involved in inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and infection by HIV-1. The three-dimensional structure of each monomer is virtually identical, but the quaternary structure of chemokines is different for each subfamily. Structure-function studies reveal several regions of chemokines to be involved in function, with the N-terminal region playing a dominant role. A number of proteins and small-molecule antagonists have been identified that inhibit chemokine activities. In this review, we discuss aspects of the structure, function, and inhibition of chemokines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Chemokines / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Chemokines / chemistry*
  • Chemokines / physiology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptors, Chemokine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Chemokine / chemistry


  • Chemokines
  • Receptors, Chemokine