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J Biol Chem. 2007 Mar 9;282(10):7576-81. Epub 2007 Jan 4.

Viral infections activate types I and III interferon genes through a common mechanism.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, Institute for Virus Research and Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan.


Viral infections trigger innate immune responses, including the production of type I interferons (IFN-alpha and -beta) and other proinflammatory cytokines. Novel antiviral cytokines IFN-lambda1, IFN-lambda2, and IFN-lambda3 are classified as type III IFNs and have evolved independently of type I IFNs. Type III IFN genes are regulated at the level of transcription and induced by viral infection. Although the regulatory mechanism of type I IFNs is well elucidated, the expression mechanism of IFN-lambdas is not well understood. Here, we analyzed the mechanism by which IFN-lambda gene expression is induced by viral infections. Loss- and gain-of-function experiments revealed the involvement of RIG-I (retinoic acid-inducible gene I), IPS-1, TBK1, and interferon regulatory factor-3, key regulators of the virus-induced activation of type I IFN genes. Consistent with this, a search for the cis-regulatory element of the human ifnlambda1 revealed a cluster of interferon regulatory factor-binding sites and a NF-kappaB-binding site. Functional analysis demonstrated that all of these sites are essential for gene activation by the virus. These results strongly suggest that types I and III IFN genes are regulated by a common mechanism.

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