The main difference between interleukins and interferons is that interleukins are a group of naturally occurring proteins that mediate communication between cells, whereas interferons are glycoproteins produced in response to infections.
Cytokines are small proteins that are essential in the growth and functioning of other immune cells and blood cells. Interleukins and interferons are two types of cytokines the cells of the immune system produce. These proteins have different targets and functions within the immune system.
Key Areas Covered
1. What are Interleukins
– Definition, Characteristics, Function
2. What are Interferons
– Definition, Characteristics, Function
3. Relationship Between Interleukins and Interferons
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Interleukins and Interferons
– Comparison of Key Differences
Interleukins, Interferons, Cytokines
What are Interleukins
Interleukins are a naturally occurring protein group that mediate cell communication. They are often referred to as IL. Interleukins are produced by white blood cells(leukocytes) and many other body cells. They are a subgroup of a large group of extracellular signalling molecules called cytokines. Moreover, they are low molecular weight proteins. They have pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties. Interleukins also have paracrine and autocrine properties. The main function of interleukins is to modulate growth, differentiation, and activation during immune responses and inflammatory responses, as they are essential in the activation and differentiation of immune cells, proliferation, maturation, migration, and adhesion. They bind to high-affinity receptors in cell surfaces. Then this interaction initiates a series of signals within the target cell, which causes the cell to alter its behaviour.
There are 15 different types of interleukins. We name them from L-1 to L -15. L-1 and L-2 mainly act as stimulants for B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. L -2 also acts as a stimulant for the growth of T cells and B cells. Moreover, L-1 with L-6 are mediators of inflammation. L-4 elevates antibody secretion by B lymphocytes. Additionally, L -12 is the reason for the production of a higher number of leukocytes, cytotoxic T cells, and natural killer cells. Additionally, some interleukins act as chemoattractants for helper T cells. Interleukins can act as potential therapeutic targets, as well.
What are Interferons
Interferons are proteins produced by various cells as part of the inflammatory response to infections. Hence, they are a part of our natural defences. They inform the immune system if there are germ cells or cancer cells in the body. They also trigger the killer immune cells to fight invaders. In fact, nearly all the cells of the body make interferons.
Furthermore, there are three main types of interferons: interferon alpha, interferon beta, and interferon gamma. Interferon alpha and interferon beta are released by cells that are infected by germs or viruses. These interferons are an indication for the immune system to release interferon-gamma, which fights germs. Hence, interferons help the immune system to recognize germs, viruses, or cancer. It also informs the immune cells to attack. Another function of interferons is to stop cancer and virus cells from growing. They also help healthy cells fight infection.
Interferons are also associated with the cure of viral infections. Among few such diseases cured are genital warts, chronic hepatitis, malignant melanoma, lymphoma, chronic hepatitis C, hairy cell leukaemia, chronic myelogenous leukaemia, and multiple sclerosis. They also take part in the pathogenesis of various diseases like collagen diseases(for example, rheumatoid arthritis), diabetes mellitus, severe pancreatitis, atherosclerosis, and nephritis.
Relationship Between Interleukins and Interferons
- Interleukins and interferons are both types of cytokines, which are signalling molecules that help to regulate the immune system.
Difference Between Interleukins and Interferons
Interleukins are a group of naturally occurring proteins that mediate communication between cells, whereas interferons are glycoproteins produced in response to infection.
Interleukins primarily help to mediate communication between different types of immune cells, while interferons primarily take part in the antiviral response and help to activate immune cells such as natural killer cells.
There are many interleukins, including L1 – L-15, while the three types of interferons are interferon alpha, interferon beta, and interferon gamma.
In brief, cytokines are small proteins essential for other immune cells’ growth and functioning. Two such cytokines are interleukins and interferons. The key difference between interleukins and interferons is that interleukins are a group of naturally occurring proteins that mediate communication between cells, whereas interferons are glycoproteins produced in response to infection.
1. “1AU1 Human Interferon-Beta01” By Nevit Dilmen – Self created from PDB entry with Cn3D Data Source (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Human IL-11 crystal structure” By Agifr – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia