Historically, interleukin-2 (IL-2) was first described as an immunostimulatory factor that supports the expansion of activated effector T cells. A layer of sophistication arose when regulatory CD4+ T lymphocytes (Tregs) were shown to require IL-2 for their development, homeostasis, and immunosuppressive functions. Fundamental distinctions in the nature and spatiotemporal expression patterns of IL-2 receptor subunits on naive/memory/effector T cells versus Tregs are now being exploited to manipulate the immunomodulatory effects of IL-2 for therapeutic purposes. Although high-dose IL-2 administration has yielded discrete clinical responses, low-dose IL-2 as well as innovative strategies based on IL-2 derivatives, including “muteins,” immunocomplexes, and immunocytokines, are being explored to therapeutically enhance or inhibit the immune response.

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