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J Immunol. 2007 Sep 15;179(6):3434-42.

IFN regulatory factor family members differentially regulate the expression of type III IFN (IFN-lambda) genes.

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  • 1Department of Viral Diseases and Immunology, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland.


Virus replication induces the expression of antiviral type I (IFN-alphabeta) and type III (IFN-lambda1-3 or IL-28A/B and IL-29) IFN genes via TLR-dependent and -independent pathways. Although type III IFNs differ genetically from type I IFNs, their similar biological antiviral functions suggest that their expression is regulated in a similar fashion. Structural and functional characterization of the IFN-lambda1 and IFN-lambda3 gene promoters revealed them to be similar to IFN-beta and IFN-alpha genes, respectively. Both of these promoters had functional IFN-stimulated response element and NF-kappaB binding sites. The binding of IFN regulatory factors (IRF) to type III IFN promoter IFN-stimulated response element sites was the most important event regulating the expression of these genes. Ectopic expression of the components of TLR7 (MyD88 plus IRF1/IRF7), TLR3 (Toll/IL-1R domain-containing adapter-inducing factor), or retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) signal transduction pathways induced the activation of IFN-lambda1 promoter, whereas the IFN-lambda3 promoter was efficiently activated only by overexpression of MyD88 and IRF7. The ectopic expression of Pin1, a recently identified suppressor for IRF3-dependent antiviral response, decreased the IFN promoter activation induced by any of these three signal transduction pathways, including the MyD88-dependent one. To conclude, the data suggest that the IFN-lambda1 gene is regulated by virus-activated IRF3 and IRF7, thus resembling that of the IFN-beta gene, whereas IFN-lambda2/3 gene expression is mainly controlled by IRF7, thus resembling those of IFN-alpha genes.

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