Targeting IL-2: an unexpected effect in treating immunological diseases

Congxiu Ye, David Brand, Song G. Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Regulatory T cells (Treg) play a crucial role in maintaining immune homeostasis since Treg dysfunction in both animals and humans is associated with multi-organ autoimmune and inflammatory disease. While IL-2 is generally considered to promote T-cell proliferation and enhance effector T-cell function, recent studies have demonstrated that treatments that utilize low-dose IL-2 unexpectedly induce immune tolerance and promote Treg development resulting in the suppression of unwanted immune responses and eventually leading to treatment of some autoimmune disorders. In the present review, we discuss the biology of IL-2 and its signaling to help define the key role played by IL-2 in the development and function of Treg cells. We also summarize proof-of-concept clinical trials which have shown that low-dose IL-2 can control autoimmune diseases safely and effectively by specifically expanding and activating Treg. However, future studies will be needed to validate a better and safer dosing strategy for low-dose IL-2 treatments utilizing well-controlled clinical trials. More studies will also be needed to validate the appropriate dose of IL-2/anti-cytokine or IL-2/anti-IL-2 complex in the experimental animal models before moving to the clinic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalSignal Transduction and Targeted Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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