Cytokines allow cells to communicate with one another and induce a wide range of activities. They can be pro- or anti-inflammatory, promote cell growth, or influence differentiation to various cell types. To mediate these functions, cytokines bind to their respective receptors on the cell surface, initiating signaling cascades for gene transcription. For example, Naïve CD4+ T cells can give rise to a number of T helper classes, depending on the recombinant proteins used to induce differentiation. Learn more about cytokines in T helper cell fates.


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Chemokines are relatively small cytokines which regulate cell movement, also known as chemotaxis. To mediate downstream functions, they bind to chemokine receptors which contain seven transmembrane domains. These receptors are typically promiscuous and bind to multiple chemokine ligands.


Chemokines contain several (typically four) cysteine residues in conserved positions within the protein (marked C in the image to the right) which provide tertiary structure through disulfide bonds. The spacing of the intervening amino acids (denoted as X) between the first two cysteine residues determine the type of chemokine. Learn more about chemokines and chemokine receptors.


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Growth Factors


Growth factors are a broad family of proteins that regulate a number of important cellular processes including cell growth, differentiation, proliferation, and survival. Growth factors bind to transmembrane receptors typically containing a cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase domain which initiates downstream signaling pathways including MAP kinase and PI3K-mTOR pathways. Growth factors are classified into various families based on the structure of the protein, downstream function, and the ability to affect different cell types. Learn all about growth factors and get our infographic.


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