Interleukin 5

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Interleukin 5 (IL5) is an interleukin produced by type-2 T helper cells and mast cells.


Through binding to the interleukin-5 receptor, interleukin 5 stimulates B cell growth and increases immunoglobulin secretion - primarily IgA. It is also a key mediator in eosinophil activation.


IL-5 is a 115-amino acid (in human, 133 in the mouse) -long TH2 cytokine that is part of the hematopoietic family. Unlike other members of this cytokine family (namely interleukin 3 and GM-CSF), this glycoprotein in its active form is a homodimer.[1]

Tissue expression

The IL-5 gene is located on chromosome 11 in the mouse, and chromosome 5 in humans, in close proximity to the genes encoding IL-3, IL-4, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF),[2][3] which are often co-expressed in TH2 cells. Interleukin-5 is also expressed by eosinophils[4] and has been observed in the mast cells of asthmatic airways by immunohistochemistry.[5] IL-5 expression is regulated by several transcription factors including GATA3.[6]

Clinical significance

Interleukin-5 has long been associated with the cause of several allergic diseases including allergic rhinitis and asthma, wherein a large increase in the number of circulating, airway tissue, and induced sputum eosinophils have been observed.[7] Given the high concordance of eosinophils and, in particular, allergic asthma pathology, it has been widely speculated that eosinophils have an important role in the pathology of this disease.[8]

Drugs that target IL-5 are mepolizumab and reslizumab.

Effect on eosinophils

Eosinophils are terminally differentiated granulocytes found in most mammals. The principal role of these cells, in a healthy host, is the elimination of antibody bound parasites through the release of cytotoxic granule proteins.[9] Given that eosinophils are the primary IL-5Rα-expressing cells, it is not surprising that this cell type responds to IL-5. In fact, IL-5 was originally discovered as an eosinophil colony-stimulating factor,[10] is a major regulator of eosinophil accumulation in tissues, and can modulate eosinophil behavior at every stage from maturation to survival. Mepolizumab is a monoclonal antibody against IL-5 which can reduce excessive eosinophilia.

In Hodgkin lymphoma, for instance, the typically-observed eosinophilia is thought to be attributable to an increased production of IL-5.[11]


Interleukin 5 has been shown to interact with Interleukin 5 receptor alpha subunit.[12][13][14]


The IL-5 receptor is composed of an α and a βc chain.[15] The α subunit is specific for the IL-5 molecule, whereas the βc subunit also recognised by interleukin 3 (IL3) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF).[15][16] Glycosylation of the Asn196 residue of the Rα subunit appears to be essential for binding of IL-5.[17]


  1. Milburn MV, Hassell AM, Lambert MH, Jordan SR, Proudfoot AE, Graber P, Wells TN (May 1993). "A novel dimer configuration revealed by the crystal structure at 2.4 A resolution of human interleukin-5". Nature. 363 (6425): 172–6. doi:10.1038/363172a0. PMID 8483502.
  2. Lee JS, Campbell HD, Kozak CA, Young IG (March 1989). "The IL-4 and IL-5 genes are closely linked and are part of a cytokine gene cluster on mouse chromosome 11". Somat. Cell Mol. Genet. 15 (2): 143–52. doi:10.1007/BF01535075. PMID 2784591.
  3. van Leeuwen BH, Martinson ME, Webb GC, Young IG (April 1989). "Molecular organization of the cytokine gene cluster, involving the human IL-3, IL-4, IL-5, and GM-CSF genes, on human chromosome 5". Blood. 73 (5): 1142–8. PMID 2564789.
  4. Dubucquoi S, Desreumaux P, Janin A, Klein O, Goldman M, Tavernier J, Capron A, Capron M (February 1994). "Interleukin 5 synthesis by eosinophils: association with granules and immunoglobulin-dependent secretion". J. Exp. Med. 179 (2): 703–8. doi:10.1084/jem.179.2.703. PMC 2191391. PMID 8294877.
  5. Bradding P, Roberts JA, Britten KM, Montefort S, Djukanovic R, Mueller R, Heusser CH, Howarth PH, Holgate ST (May 1994). "Interleukin-4, -5, and -6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha in normal and asthmatic airways: evidence for the human mast cell as a source of these cytokines". Am. J. Respir. Cell Mol. Biol. 10 (5): 471–80. doi:10.1165/ajrcmb.10.5.8179909. PMID 8179909.
  6. Kaminuma O, Mori A, Kitamura N, Hashimoto T, Kitamura F, Inokuma S, Miyatake S (2005). "Role of GATA-3 in IL-5 gene transcription by CD4+ T cells of asthmatic patients". Int. Arch. Allergy Immunol. 137 Suppl 1: 55–9. doi:10.1159/000085433. PMID 15947486.
  7. Shen HH, Ochkur SI, McGarry MP, Crosby JR, Hines EM, Borchers MT, Wang H, Biechelle TL, O'Neill KR, Ansay TL, Colbert DC, Cormier SA, Justice JP, Lee NA, Lee JJ (March 2003). "A causative relationship exists between eosinophils and the development of allergic pulmonary pathologies in the mouse". J. Immunol. 170 (6): 3296–305. doi:10.4049/jimmunol.170.6.3296. PMID 12626589.
  8. Sanderson CJ (June 1992). "Interleukin-5, eosinophils, and disease". Blood. 79 (12): 3101–9. PMID 1596561.
  9. Giembycz MA, Lindsay MA (June 1999). "Pharmacology of the eosinophil". Pharmacol. Rev. 51 (2): 213–340. PMID 10353986.
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  11. Di Biagio E, Sánchez-Borges M, Desenne JJ, Suárez-Chacón R, Somoza R, Acquatella G (Jul 1996). "Eosinophilia in Hodgkin's disease: a role for interleukin 5". Int. Arch. Allergy Immunol. 110 (3): 244–51. doi:10.1159/000237294. PMID 8688671.
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  13. Johanson K, Appelbaum E, Doyle M, Hensley P, Zhao B, Abdel-Meguid SS, Young P, Cook R, Carr S, Matico R (April 1995). "Binding interactions of human interleukin 5 with its receptor alpha subunit. Large scale production, structural, and functional studies of Drosophila-expressed recombinant proteins". J. Biol. Chem. 270 (16): 9459–71. doi:10.1074/jbc.270.16.9459. PMID 7721873.
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  17. Ishino T, Economou NJ, McFadden K, Zaks-Zilberman M, Jost M, Baxter S, Contarino MR, Harrington AE, Loll PJ, Pasut G, Lievens S, Tavernier J, Chaiken I (September 2011). "A protein engineering approach differentiates the functional importance of carbohydrate moieties of interleukin-5 receptor α". Biochemistry. 50 (35): 7546–56. doi:10.1021/bi2009135. PMID 21770429.