interleukin-12medical dictionary


A 75 kD heterodimeric cytokine composed of disulfide-bonded 40 kD and 35 kD subunits that was originally identified by its ability to induce cytotoxic effector cells in synergy with less than optimal concentrations of interleukin-2.

It is released by macrophages in response to infection and promotes the activation of cell-mediated immunity. Specifically, IL-12 triggers the maturation of Thl CD4 cells, specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte responses and an increase in the activity of NK cells and consequently, it is the initiator of cell-mediated immunity.

It enhances the lytic activity of NK cells, induces interferon production, stimulates the proliferation of activated T-cells and NK cells. Is secreted by human B lymphoblastoid cells (NC 37). May play a role in controlling immunoglobulin isotype selection as it also inhibits IgE synthesis (even in the presence of anti-IFN monoclonal antibody) and as a growth factor for activated CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells independently of interleukin-2, and for CD56+ NK cells but not resting peripheral blood mononuclear cells or resting or activated tonsillar B-cells.

It is likely that interleukin 12 has a major role in protective immunity against viruses and is under study as an immunotherapy in HIV infection.

Formerly referred to as cytotoxic lymphocyte maturation factor.

Acronym: IL-12

(12 Dec 1998)