The interleukin (IL)-2 family cytokines: survival and proliferation signaling pathways in T lymphocytes

Immunol Invest. 2004 May;33(2):109-42. doi: 10.1081/imm-120030732.


Lymphocyte populations in the immune system are maintained by a well-organized balance between cellular proliferation, cellular survival and programmed cell death (apoptosis). One of the primary functions of many cytokines is to coordinate these processes. In particular, the interleukin (IL)-2 family of cytokines, which consists of six cytokines (IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, IL-15 and IL-21) that all share a common receptor subunit (gammac), plays a major role in promoting and maintaining T lymphocyte populations. The details of the molecular signaling pathways mediated by these cytokines have not been fully elucidated. However, the three major pathways clearly involved include the JAK/STAT, MAPK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (P13K) pathways. The details of these pathways as they apply to the IL-2 family of cytokines is discussed, with a focus on their roles in proliferation and survival signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Survival
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / classification*
  • Interleukin-2 / immunology*
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / chemistry
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Interleukin-2
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases