Interleukin-2 (IL-2) exerts crucial functions during immune homeostasis via its effects on regulatory T (Treg) cells, and the optimizing and fine-tuning of effector lymphocyte responses. Thus, somewhat paradoxically, low doses of recombinant IL-2 have been used for Treg cell-based immunosuppressive strategies against immune pathologies, while high-dose IL-2 has shown some success in stimulating anti-tumor immune responses. Recent studies of the functional, biophysical and structural characteristics of IL-2 have led to the generation of IL-2 formulations, including IL-2/mAb complexes and IL-2 variants (muteins) that selectively enhance IL-2's immune stimulatory versus inhibitory properties. Here, we review these findings, placing new mechanistic insights into improved next-generation IL-2 formulations within the broader context of IL-2 biology. We conclude by integrating these findings into a framework for understanding IL-2-mediated selective immune modulation.