Immunology

Origins of Resistance to Viruses

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Science  07 Dec 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5549, pp. 2057
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5549.2057b

The immune response to viruses depends critically on type 1 interferons, a family of cytokines that activate early antiviral pathways and that directly inhibit viral replication within cells. The precise source of type 1 interferons in vivo has been difficult to pin down, although recent studies in humans have demonstrated the existence of rare, natural interferon-producing cells (IPCs) in the blood.

Asselin-Paturel et al. identify in mice a subset of IPCs that displays the characteristics of immature dendritic cells (DCs). In particular, the IPCs exhibited a robust capacity for interferon-α production and a group of protein markers distinct from those of other DC subsets. Depletion of IPCs in vivo revealed that these cells were the main source of virally induced interferon-α; in addition, exposure to virus increased IPC survival and their capacity to stimulate antigen-specific T cell responses. Finally, the mouse IPCs showed limited reactivity to bacterial products, consistent with the notion that they are destined to combat viral infection.—SJS

Nature Immunol.2, 1144 (2001).

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