Résumé : Cytokines interact with neurotransmitters and modify neuronal and neuroimmune functions. Intense in situ neuronal IL-2 immunoreactivity was detected in vital human brainstem neuronal centers which are principally implicated in cardio-respiratory control mechanisms. These observations were made in critically-ill aging adult as well as in young infant patients dying from various clinico-pathological conditions. We suggested that this in situ cytokine over-expression might tip a delicate balance in molecular interactions in those vital neuro-vegetative centers, causing disturbed homeostatic control of cardio-respiratory functions and impaired arousal responses; we further hypothesized that this IL-2-induced neuro-molecular disequilibrium in the brainstem microenvironment might thus be part of a final common pathway leading to death. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.