Interleukin (IL)-22 is a member of the IL-10 cytokine family that is produced by special immune cell populations, including Th22, Th1, and Th17 cells, classical and non-classical (NK-22) NK cells, NKT cells, and lymphoid tissue inducer cells. This cytokine does not influence cells of the hematopoietic lineage. Instead, its target cells are certain tissue cells from the skin, liver and kidney, and from organs of the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. The main biological role of IL-22 includes the increase of innate immunity, protection from damage, and enhancement of regeneration. IL-22 can play either a protective or a pathogenic role in chronic inflammatory diseases depending on the nature of the affected tissue and the local cytokine milieu. This review highlights the primary effects of IL-22 on its target cells, its role in the defense against infections, in tumorigenesis, in inflammatory diseases and allergy as well as the potential of the therapeutic modulation of IL-22 action.
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