The soluble interleukin-2 receptor: biology, function, and clinical application

Ann Intern Med. 1990 Oct 15;113(8):619-27. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-113-8-619.


Purpose: To review the biologic origin, functional characteristics, and current and potential clinical applications of a novel marker of immune system activation, the soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sIL-2R).

Data identification: Studies reported since 1985 were identified by a computer search using MEDLINE as well as from bibliographies of published work.

Study selection: Sixty-two reports on the clinical applications of the sIL-2R, largely from peer-reviewed journals, were identified. These reports address the utility and significance of sIL-2R measurements in various conditions. Basic scientific investigations delineating the biochemical and molecular features of the human interleukin-2 receptor complex and the sIL-2R protein were reviewed.

Data extraction: The validity of sIL-2R quantitation as an index of in-vivo immune system activation and its usefulness as a measure of disease activity and outcome were examined.

Results of data analysis: The quantitation of sIL-2R, a novel laboratory measure of in-vivo immune system activation, correlates reliably with disease activity in autoimmune inflammatory disorders, transplantation rejection, and specific infectious disorders. Markedly elevated serum sIL-2R levels are a particularly prominent feature of certain hematologic malignancies, such as human T lymphotropic retrovirus type I-associated adult T-cell leukemia and hairy cell leukemia, reflecting tumor burden and response to therapy. The sIL-2R level at disease onset may also reliably predict long-term prognosis in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and it appears to provide an additional serologic measure in the assessment of clinical progression in patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Conclusions: Studies have suggested that sIL-2R levels offer a rapid, reliable, and noninvasive measure of disease activity, response to therapy, and, in some cases, prognosis in a broad spectrum of conditions associated with T- or B-cell immune activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Humans
  • Infections / immunology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / blood
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / physiology*
  • Transplantation Immunology


  • Biomarkers
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2