Interleukin-5 has long been associated with several allergic diseases including allergic rhinitis and asthma where a large increase in the number of circulating, airway tissue, and induced sputum eosinophil numbers have been observed . Given the high concordance of eosinophils and, particularly, allergic asthma pathology, it has been widely speculated that eosinophils have an important role in the pathology of this disease .
The IL-5 Receptor
The IL-5 receptor (IL-5R) belongs to the type I cytokine receptor family and is a heterodimer composed of two polypeptide chains, one α subunit which binds IL-5 and confers upon the receptor cytokine specificity, and one β subunit which contains the signal transduction domains.
The IL-5Rα chain is exclusively expressed by eosinophils, some basophils and murine B1 cells or B cell precursors . Like many other cytokine receptors, alternative splicing of the α-chain gene results in expression of either a membrane bound or soluble form of the α-chain. The soluble form does not lead to signal transduction and therefore has an antagonistic effect on IL-5 signaling. Both monomeric forms of IL-5Rα are low affinity receptors, while dimerization with the β-chain produces a high affinity receptor . In either case, the α-chain exclusively binds IL-5 and the intra-cellular portion of IL-5Rα is associated with Janus kinase (JAK) 2, a protein tyrosine-kinase essential in IL-5 signal transduction .
The β-subunit of the IL-5 receptor is responsible for signal transduction and contains several intracellular signaling domains. Unlike the α-chain, the β-chain does not bind IL-5, is not specific to this cytokine, and is expressed on practically all leukocytes. In fact, the β-subunit of the IL-5 receptor is also found in IL-3 and GM-CSF receptors where it is associated the IL-3Rα and GM-CSFRα subunits respectively . Therefore it is known as the common β receptor or βc. Like the IL-5Rα subunit, the β subunit’s cytoplasmic domain is constitutively associated with JAK2 , as well as LYN, another tyrosine kinase, which are both essential for IL-5 signal transduction .
Effect of IL-5 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 . 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 , is a major regulator of eosinophil accumulation in tissues, and can modulate eosinophil behavior at every stage from maturation to survival.
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