Chemokines (movement, Greek -kinos ) belong to a family of cytokines , and they are small proteins secreted by cells. The name is derived from their function to induce directed chemotaxis in nearby responsive cells; they are chemotactic cytokines. Proteins are classified as chemokines mainly when they share the common structural characteristics such as small size (they are all approximately 8-10 kilodaltons in size), and the presence of four cysteine residues in conserved locations that are key to forming their 3-dimensional shape.
Chemokines are a superfamily of small proteins that bind to G protein-coupled receptors on target cells and were originally discovered as mediators of directional migration of immune cells to sites of inflammation and injury.
Some chemokines are considered pro-inflammatory and can be induced during an immune response to recruit cells of the immune system to a site of infection, while others are considered homeostatic and are involved in controlling the migration of cells during normal processes of tissue maintenance or development. Chemokines are found in all vertebrates, some viruses and some bacteria, but none have been described for other invertebrates. These proteins exert their biological effects by interacting with G protein-linked transmembrane receptors called chemokine receptors, that are selectively found on the surfaces of their target cells.