Human IL-21 and IL-21R deficiencies: two novel entities of primary immunodeficiency

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Purpose of reviewThis review highlights the recent identification of human interleukin-21 (IL-21) and interleukin-21 receptor (IL-21R) deficiencies as novel entities of primary immunodeficiency.Recent findingsWe recently described the first patients with IL-21R deficiency who had cryptosporidial infections associated with chronic cholangitis and liver disease. All IL-21R-deficient patients suffered from recurrent respiratory tract infections. Immunological work-up revealed impaired B cell proliferation and immunoglobulin class-switch, reduced T cell effector functions, and variable natural killer cell dysfunctions. Recently, these findings have been extended by the discovery of one patient with a mutation in the IL21 gene. This patient predominantly manifested with very early onset inflammatory bowel disease and recurrent respiratory infections. Laboratory examination showed reduced circulating B cells and impaired B cell class-switch.SummaryHuman IL-21 and IL-21R deficiencies cause severe, primary immunodeficiency reminiscent of common variable immunodeficiency. Early diagnosis is critical to prevent life-threatening complications, such as secondary liver failure. In view of the critical role of IL-21 in controlling immune homeostasis, early hematopoietic stem cell transplantation might be considered as therapeutic intervention in affected children.

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