T cell-derived cytokines are important in the development of an effective immune response, but when dysregulated they can promote disease. Here we identify a four-helix bundle cytokine we have called interleukin 31 (IL-31), which is preferentially produced by T helper type 2 cells. IL-31 signals through a receptor composed of IL-31 receptor A and oncostatin M receptor. Expression of IL-31 receptor A and oncostatin M receptor mRNA was induced in activated monocytes, whereas epithelial cells expressed both mRNAs constitutively. Transgenic mice overexpressing IL-31 developed severe pruritus, alopecia and skin lesions. Furthermore, IL-31 receptor expression was increased in diseased tissues derived from an animal model of airway hypersensitivity. These data indicate that IL-31 may be involved in promoting the dermatitis and epithelial responses that characterize allergic and non-allergic diseases.
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