Interleukin-21 in Viral Infections

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Sep 1;22(17):9521. doi: 10.3390/ijms22179521.


Interleukin (IL)-21 is a cytokine that affects the differentiation and function of lymphoid and myeloid cells and regulates both innate and adaptive immune responses. In addition to regulating the immune response to tumor and viral infections, IL-21 also has a profound effect on the development of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. IL-21 is produced mainly from CD4+ T cells-in particular, follicular helper T (Tfh) cells-which have a great influence on the regulation of antibody production. It is also an important cytokine for the activation of CD8+ T cells, and its role in recovering the function of CD8+ T cells exhausted by chronic microbial infections and cancer has been clarified. Thus, IL-21 plays an extremely important role in viral infections, especially chronic viral infections. In this review, I will introduce the findings to date on how IL-21 is involved in some typical viral infections and the potential of treating viral diseases with IL-21.

Keywords: B cell; CD4+ T cell; CD8+ T cell; T cell exhaustion; follicular helper T (Tfh) cell; interleukin (IL)-21.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Interleukins / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / pathology


  • Interleukins
  • interleukin-21