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J Virol. 2008 Sep;82(17):8465-75. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00918-08. Epub 2008 Jun 18.

Interferon regulatory factor IRF-7 induces the antiviral alpha interferon response and protects against lethal West Nile virus infection.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Type I interferon (IFN-alpha/beta) comprises a family of immunomodulatory cytokines that are critical for controlling viral infections. In cell culture, many RNA viruses trigger IFN responses through the binding of RNA recognition molecules (RIG-I, MDA5, and TLR-3) and induction of interferon regulatory factor IRF-3-dependent gene transcription. Recent studies with West Nile virus (WNV) have shown that type I IFN is essential for restricting infection and that a deficiency of IRF-3 results in enhanced lethality. However, IRF-3 was not required for optimal systemic IFN production in vivo or in vitro in macrophages. To begin to define the transcriptional factors that regulate type I IFN after WNV infection, we evaluated IFN induction and virus control in IRF-7(-/-) mice. Compared to congenic wild-type mice, IRF-7(-/-) mice showed increased lethality after WNV infection and developed early and elevated WNV burdens in both peripheral and central nervous system tissues. As a correlate, a deficiency of IRF-7 blunted the systemic type I IFN response in mice. Consistent with this, IFN-alpha gene expression and protein production were reduced and viral titers were increased in IRF-7(-/-) primary macrophages, fibroblasts, dendritic cells, and cortical neurons. In contrast, in these cells the IFN-beta response remained largely intact. Our data suggest that the early protective IFN-alpha response against WNV occurs through an IRF-7-dependent transcriptional signal.

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