Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 01.11.2021

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20 kDa B cell growth factor (20 K-BCGF); B cell differentiation factor epsilon (BCDF-ε); B cell differentiation factor for IgG1; B cell differentiation factor γ (BCDF-γ); B cell growth factor 1 (BCGF-1); B cell growth factor γ (BCGF-γ); B cell replication factor (BRF); B cell stimulating factor 1 (BSF-1); B cell stimulatory factor 1 (BSF-1); B cell stimulatory factor p1 (BSF-p1); EL4 B cell growth factor (EL4-BCGF); Hodgkin's cell growth factor (HCGF); IgE-enhancing factor (IgE-EF); IgG1-enhancing factor (IgG1-EF); IgG1-inducing factor; IL-4; macrophage activating factor (MAF); Macrophage fusion factor (MFF); Mast cell growth factor 2 (MCGF-2); T cell growth factor 2 (TCGF-2); Thymocyte growth factor (THCGF); Thymocyte growth factor (THCGF).

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IL-4 is a cytokine with anti-inflammatory properties, which is mainly secreted by TH2 lymphocytes (see below T helper lymphocyte). Interleukin-4 differentiates naive CD4+ T cells into Th2 lymphocytes (see below T helper lymphocyte). Furthermore, the cytokine stimulates growth of B cells. Together with interleukin-13, the cytokine inhibits the differentiation of Th1 lymphocytes and macrophages by activating the transcription factor STAT6; furthermore, it inhibits the production of IFN-gamma and interleukin-12.

Spectrum of action
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IL-4 stimulates activated B cells and causes a so-called immunoglobulin class switch to IgE and IgG1. In contrast, the synthesis of IgM, IgG3, IgG2a and IgG2b is suppressed. Il-4 further enhances the proliferation of T lymphocytes and increases their cytotoxicity. In addition, Il-4, together with other cytokines, stimulates the proliferation of many blood cells. It also increases the cytotoxicity of macrophages. Overall, Il-4 stimulates the humoral and suppresses the cellular immune defence.

The effect of interleukin-4 is mediated by specific interleukin-4 receptors (IL-4R, CD124) that are expressed on the surface of B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes, macrophages, and mast cells. The receptor density is 200-700/cell, on stimulated cells 1000-1500/cell; by Il-4 itself the receptor density can be modulated. The receptor is also present in a soluble form (sIL-4R). sIL-4R is a regulator of circulating interleukin-4, which it can neutralize.

Mutations and polymorphisms in the interleukin-4 receptor gene are associated with an increased disposition to atopic diseases.

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  1. Bottema RW et al (2010) Interleukin 13 and interleukin 4 receptor-α polymorphisms in rhinitis and asthma. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 153:259-267.
  2. Hytönen AM et al (2004) Haplotypes of the interleukin-4 receptor alpha chain gene associated with susceptibility to and severity of atopic asthma. Clin Exp Allergy 34:1570-1575.
  3. Narożna B et al(2016) Polymorphisms in the interleukin 4, interleukin 4 receptor and interleukin 13 genes and allergic phenotype: A case control study. Adv Med Sci 61:40-45.


Last updated on: 01.11.2021