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Immunology. 2011 Apr;132(4):466-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2011.03412.x. Epub 2011 Feb 14.

Regulation of effector and memory T-cell functions by type I interferon.

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Department of Immunology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390-9093, USA.


Type I interferon (IFN-α/β) is comprised of a family of highly related molecules that exert potent antiviral activity by interfering with virus replication and spread. IFN-α/β secretion is tightly regulated through pathogen sensing pathways that are operative in most somatic cells. However, specialized antigen-presenting plasmacytoid dendritic cells are uniquely equipped with the capacity to secrete extremely high levels of IFN-α/β, suggesting a key role for this cytokine in priming adaptive T-cell responses. Recent studies in both mice and humans have demonstrated a role for IFN-α/β in directly influencing the fate of both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells during the initial phases of antigen recognition. As such, IFN-α/β, among other innate cytokines, is considered an important 'third signal' that shapes the effector and memory T-cell pool. Moreover, IFN-α/β also serves as a counter-regulator of T helper type 2 and type 17 responses, which may be important in the treatment of atopy and autoimmunity, and in the development of novel vaccine adjuvants.

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