Among a wide range of cytokines, the Interleukin 12 (IL-12) family has its unique structural, functional, and immunological characteristics that have made this family as important immunological playmakers. Because of the importance of IL-12 heterodimeric cytokines in microbial infections, autoimmune diseases, and cancers, the authors of this literature discuss about the general characteristics of IL-12 family members, the interactions between IL-12 cytokines and pathogenic microorganisms, the interleukins receptors and their strategies for selecting different signalling pathways. IL-12 and IL-23 are similar in p40 subunits and both are involved in proinflammatory responses while, IL-27 and IL-35 contribute to anti-inflammatory activities; however, IL-27 is also involved in pro-inflammatory responses. There are some similarities and dissimilarities among IL-12 family members which make them a unique bridge between innate and adaptive immune systems. The bioactivities of IL-12 family indicate a brilliant promise for their applications in different fields of medicine. The members of IL-12 family are candidate for several therapeutics including gene therapy, cancer therapy, tumour therapy, and vaccination. To have an accurate diagnostic technique and definite treatment regarding to infectious diseases, the playmakers of IL-12 family as effective criteria together with microarray technology are the best choices for current and future applications.
Keywords: IL-12; IL-23; IL-27; IL-35.