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Etymologia: Cytokines - Volume 24, Number 7—July 2018 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC

Etymologia: Cytokines - Volume 24, Number 7—July 2018 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC

Volume 24, Number 7—July 2018


Etymologia: Cytokines

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Thomas J. GryczanComments to Author 

Cytokines [si′to-kīnes]

From the Greek cyto (cavity or cell) and kine (movement), cytokines are proteins involved in cell signaling and function as immunomodulating agents. Cytokines are produced by immune cells (e.g., macrophages, B and T lymphocytes, mast cells, neutrophils, natural killer cells), endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and stromal cells.
Although the term cytokine had not yet even been defined, interferon-α, the first cytokine known, was identified in 1957 as a protein that interfered with virus replication. Activities of interferon-γ and interleukin-2 were identified in 1965. Macrophage migratory inhibitory factor was identified in 1966. In 1969, Dumonde and colleagues proposed the term lymphokine to describe proteins secreted from lymphocytes. Proteins derived from macrophages and monocytes were later called monokines. In 1974, Cohen and colleagues reported production of macrophage migration inhibitory factors in virus-infected fibroblasts, which led (finally) to proposal of the term cytokine.


  1. Cohen SBigazzi PEYoshida TCommentary. Similarities of T cell function in cell-mediated immunity and antibody production. Cell Immunol1974;12:1509DOIPubMed
  2. Dumonde DCWolstencroft RAPanayi GSMatthew MMorley JHowson WT“Lymphokines”: non-antibody mediators of cellular immunity generated by lymphocyte activation. Nature1969;224:3842DOIPubMed
  3. Gordon JMacLean LDA lymphocyte-stimulating factor produced in vitro. Nature1965;208:7956DOIPubMed
  4. Isaacs ALindenmann JVirus interference. I. The interferon. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci1957;147:25867DOIPubMed
  5. Kasakura SLowenstein LA factor stimulating DNA synthesis derived from the medium of leukocyte cultures. Nature1965;208:7945DOIPubMed
  6. Wheelock EFInterferon-like virus-inhibitor induced in human leukocytes by phytohemagglutinin. Science1965;149:3101DOI
Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid2407.ET2407

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