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Nat Immunol. 2015 Aug;16(8):802-9. doi: 10.1038/ni.3212.

Guarding the frontiers: the biology of type III interferons.

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Francis Crick Institute, Mill Hill Laboratory, London, United Kingdom.
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.


Type III interferons (IFNs) or IFN-λs regulate a similar set of genes as type I IFNs, but whereas type I IFNs act globally, IFN-λs primarily target mucosal epithelial cells and protect them against the frequent viral attacks that are typical for barrier tissues. IFN-λs thereby help to maintain healthy mucosal surfaces through immune protection, without the significant immune-related pathogenic risk associated with type I IFN responses. Type III IFNs also target the human liver, with dual effects: they induce an antiviral state in hepatocytes, but specific IFN-λ4 action impairs the clearance of hepatitis C virus and could influence inflammatory responses. This constitutes a paradox that has yet to be resolved.

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