Cytokines have been classed as lymphokines, interleukins, and chemokines, based on their presumed function, cell of secretion, or target of action. Because cytokines are characterised by considerable redundancy and pleiotropism, such distinctions, allowing for exceptions, are obsolete.
- The term ''interleukin'' was initially used by researchers for those cytokines whose presumed targets are principally leukocytes. It is now used largely for designation of newer cytokine molecules discovered every day and bears little relation to their presumed function. The vast majority of these are produced by T-helper cells.
- The term ''chemokine'' refers to a specific class of cytokines that mediates chemoattraction (chemotaxis) between cells.
IL-8 (interleukin-8) is the only chemokine originally named an interleukin.
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