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Nat Rev Immunol. 2005 Sep;5(9):675-87.

The yin and yang of type I interferon activity in bacterial infection.

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Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University Departments at the Vienna Biocenter, Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Interferons (IFNs) are cytokines that are important for immune responses, particularly to intracellular pathogens. They are divided into two structurally and functionally distinct types that interact with different cell-surface receptors. Classically, type I IFNs are potent antiviral immunoregulators, whereas the type II IFN enhances antibacterial immunity. However, as outlined here, type I IFNs are also produced in response to infection with other pathogens, and an increasing body of work shows that type I IFNs have an important role in the host response to bacterial infection. Strikingly, their activity can be either favourable or detrimental, and can influence various immune effector mechanisms.

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