Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) is a cytokine that is widely used as a biomarker for the severity of diverse disease states. It also has been shown to play a protective role after tissue injury and to promote a negative energy balance during obesity and diabetes. In addition to its metabolic effects, GDF-15 also regulates the host’s immune responses to infectious and noninfectious diseases. GDF-15 can suppress a type 1 and, in contrast, promote a type 2 inflammatory response. In this brief review, we discuss how GDF-15 affects the effector function and recruitment of immune cells, the pathways that induce its expression, and the diverse mechanisms by which it is regulated during inflammation and infection. We further highlight outstanding questions that should be the focus of future investigations in this emerging field.

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