Interferons- A Defensive Body


Interferons- A Defensive Body


Interferon are, any of several related proteins that are produced by the body’s cells as a defensive response to viruses. They are important modulators of the immune response. Interferon was named for its ability to interfere with viral proliferation. The various forms of interferon are the body’s most rapidly produced and important defense against viruses. Interferons can also combat bacterial and parasitic infections, inhibit cell division, and promote or impede the differentiation of cells. They are produced by all vertebrate animals and possibly by some invertebrates as well.

Interferons are categorized as cytokines, small proteins that are involved in intercellular signaling. Interferon is secreted by cells in response to stimulation by a virus or other foreign substance, but it does not directly inhibit the virus’s multiplication. Rather, it stimulates the infected cells and those nearby to produce proteins that prevent the virus from replicating within them. Further production of the virus is thereby inhibited and the infection is stemmed. Interferons also have immunoregulatory functions—they inhibit B-lymphocyte (B-cell) activation, enhance T-lymphocyte (T-cell) activity, and increase the cellular-destruction capability of natural killer cells.

Three forms of interferon—alpha (α), beta (β), and gamma (γ)—have been recognized. These interferons have been classified into two types: type I includes the alpha and beta forms, and type II consists of the gamma form. This division is based on the type of cell that produces the interferon and the functional characteristics of the protein. Type I interferons can be produced by almost any cell upon stimulation by a virus; their primary function is to induce viral resistance in cells. Type II interferon is secreted only by natural killer cells and T lymphocytes; its main purpose is to signal the immune system to respond to infectious agents or cancerous growth.

Interferons (IFNs) comprise a family of secretory proteins induced in response to specific extracellular stimuli through stimulation of toll-like receptors (TLRs). Acting in paracrine or autocrine modes, IFNs stimulate intra- and intercellular networks for regulating innate and acquired immunity, resistance to viral infections, and normal and tumor cell survival and death. Through high-affinity cell surface receptors IFNs stimulate genes, using signaling molecules used by other cytokines, but first identified through studies of IFNs. Perturbations in these pathways can lead to overstimulation of cellular functions or can make cells resistant to a given ligand, facilitating either progression or resistance of malignancy. IFNs act on almost every cell type and through their cellular actions can be effective in inhibition of tumor emergence, progression, and for inducing regression.

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