Interleukin-4 and Interferon-γ: The Quintessence of a Mutual Antagonistic Relationship

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Abstract

The two cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and interferon (IFN)-γ play major roles in the generation and regulation of immune responses. Central in this respect is their mutually antagonistic functions. First, IL-4 promotes T helper cell type 2 (Th2) differentiation and stability and inhibits Th1-cell differentiation. A direct role of IFN-γ in Th1-cell differentiation is debatable, whereas inhibition of Th2-cell differentiation and roles in Th1-cell stabilization are well established functions of IFN-γ. Secondly, IL-4 and IFN-γ also affect antibody class switch and expression of Fc receptors differentially, which strongly affect the effector mechanisms following antibody production. Thirdly, macrophage activities induced or enhanced by IFN-γ, such as expression of certain cytokines, surface molecules and enzymes, are antagonized by IL-4. Together, these functions of IL-4 and IFN-γ place the two cytokines at cardinal positions in the regulation of immune reactions. In this review the known molecular mechanisms underlying the observed functions of IL-4 and IFN-γ are presented and discussed.

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