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Viral Inhibitors and Immune Response Mediators: The Interferons

Proteins, Peptides and Amino Acids

  1. Anthony Meager

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.200500008

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Meager, A. 2006. Viral Inhibitors and Immune Response Mediators: The Interferons. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. Division of Immunology and Endocrinology, National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, South Mimms, Herts, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


The interferons (IFNs), a category of biologically active proteins or cytokines with common antiviral activity, are induced by a variety of pathological stimuli, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and foreign antigens, as well as by endogenous cellular interactions. IFNs are secreted locally from induced cells to stimulate, via specific cell surface receptors, host defense mechanisms in the surrounding tissues. Such mechanisms are manifested as a wide spectrum of antiviral, antimicrobial, antitumor, and immunomodulatory actions, and have led to the belief that IFNs could have therapeutic potential in the treatment of many infections and invasive diseases.

Clinical investigations, begun in earnest in the 1980s with the abundant availability of “recombinant” IFNs, have demonstrated that IFNs, used as single therapeutic agents, induce beneficial responses in a select number of virus-mediated and malignant diseases, but not in the major human cancers, such as breast, lung, and colon. IFNs also induce significant, undesirable, but reversible, side effects. Nevertheless, IFNs continue to be widely used, for example, in the cancer area, and increasingly so for disease indications such as chronic hepatitis, caused by hepatitis-B and -C viruses, and multiple sclerosis, a chronic degenerative disease of unknown etiology.


  • Cytokine;
  • Homology;
  • Interferon;
  • Interferon Receptors;
  • Interferon/Type I;
  • Interferon/Type II;
  • Interferon/Type III;
  • Subtype;
  • Tumor Cell