Members of the interleukin 12 (IL-12) family have been known to be inflammatory factors since their discovery. The IL-12 family consists of IL-12, IL-23, IL-27, IL-35, and a new member, IL-39, which has recently been identified and has not yet been studied extensively. Current literature has described the mechanisms of immunity of these cytokines and potential uses for therapy and medical cures. IL-12 was found first and is effective in combatting a wide range of naturally occurring viral infections through the upregulation of various cytokines to clear the infected cells. IL-23 has an essential function in immune networks, can induce IL-17 production, and can antagonize inhibition from IL-12 in the presence of T helper (Th) 17 cells, resulting in type II IFN (IFN-γ) regulation. IL-27 has a competitive relationship to IL-35 because they both include the same subunit, the Epstein–Barr virus-induced gene3 (EBi3). This review provides a simple introduction to the IL-12 family and focuses on their functions relevant to their actions to counteract viral infections.
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