from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of several regulatory proteins, such as the interleukins and lymphokines, that are released by cells of the immune system and act as intercellular mediators in the generation of an immune response.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun biochemistry, immunology Any of various small regulatory proteins that regulate the cells of the immune system.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun any of various protein molecules secreted by cells of the immune system that serve to regulate the immune system


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[cyto– + Greek kīnein, to move; see kinin.]


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  • "The actual process of inflammation involves the release by certain white blood cells of proteins called 'cytokines.' There are many kinds of white cells; several kinds attack invading organisms, while other 'helper' cells manage attacks, and still others produce antibodies. There are even more kinds of cytokines. Some cytokines attack invaders directly, such as interferon, which attacks viruses. Some act as messengers carrying orders. Macrophages, for example, release 'GM CSF,' which stands for 'granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor'; GM CSF stimulates the production in the bone marrow of more macrophages as well as granulocytes, another kind of white blood cell. Some cytokines also carry messages to parts of the body not normally considered belonging to the immune system; several cytokines can affect the hypothalamus, which acts like the body's thermostat...."

    —John M. Barry, The Great Influenza (NY: Penguin Books, 2004), 248

    February 16, 2009

  • "proteins produced by immune cells that can influence cell behavior and affect interactions between cells"

    August 26, 2010