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J Virol. 2000 May;74(9):3996-4003.

The role of alpha/beta and gamma interferons in development of immunity to influenza A virus in mice.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia 30912-3175, USA.


During influenza virus infection innate and adaptive immune defenses are activated to eliminate the virus and thereby bring about recovery from illness. Both arms of the adaptive immune system, antibody neutralization of free virus and termination of intracellular virus replication by antiviral cytotoxic T cells (CTLs), play pivotal roles in virus elimination and protection from disease. Innate cytokine responses, such as alpha/beta interferon (IFN-alpha/beta) or IFN-gamma, can have roles in determining the rate of virus replication in the initial stages of infection and in shaping the initial inflammatory and downstream adaptive immune responses. The effect of these cytokines on the replication of pneumotropic influenza A virus in the respiratory tract and in the regulation of adaptive antiviral immunity was examined after intranasal infection of mice with null mutations in receptors for IFN-alpha/beta, IFN-gamma, and both IFNs. Virus titers in the lungs of mice unable to respond to IFNs were not significantly different from congenic controls for both primary and secondary infection. Likewise the mice were comparably susceptible to X31 (H3N2) influenza virus infection. No significant disruption to the development of normal antiviral CTL or antibody responses was observed. In contrast, mice bearing the disrupted IFN-alpha/beta receptor exhibited accelerated kinetics and significantly higher levels of neutralizing antibody activity during primary or secondary heterosubtypic influenza virus infection. Thus, these observations reveal no significant contribution for IFN-controlled pathways in shaping acute or memory T-cell responses to pneumotropic influenza virus infection but do indicate some role for IFN-alpha/beta in the regulation of antibody responses. Recognizing the pivotal role of CTLs and antibody in virus clearance, it is reasonable to assume a redundancy in IFN-mediated antiviral effects in pulmonary influenza. However, IFN-alpha/beta seems to be a valid factor in determining tissue tropism and replicative rates of highly virulent influenza virus strains as reported previously by others, and this aspect is discussed here.

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