How Ebola Virus Counters the Interferon System


A. Kühl, Institute of Virology, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany. Tel.: +49 511 532 4292; Fax: +49 511 532 8736; E-mail:
S. Pöhlmann, Infection Biology Unit, German Primate Center, Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Göttingen, Germany. Tel.: +49 551 3851 150; Fax: +49 551 3851 184; E-mail:


Zoonotic transmission of Ebola virus (EBOV) to humans causes a severe haemorrhagic fever in afflicted individuals with high case-fatality rates. Neither vaccines nor therapeutics are at present available to combat EBOV infection, making the virus a potential threat to public health. To devise antiviral strategies, it is important to understand which components of the immune system could be effective against EBOV infection. The interferon (IFN) system constitutes a key innate defence against viral infections and prevents development of lethal disease in mice infected with EBOV strains not adapted to this host. Recent research revealed that expression of the host cell IFN-inducible transmembrane proteins 1–3 (IFITM1–3) and tetherin is induced by IFN and restricts EBOV infection, at least in cell culture model systems. IFITMs, tetherin and other effector molecules of the IFN system could thus pose a potent barrier against EBOV spread in humans. However, EBOV interferes with signalling events required for human cells to express these proteins. Here, we will review the strategies employed by EBOV to fight the IFN system, and we will discuss how IFITM proteins and tetherin inhibit EBOV infection.