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Keywords:

  • IRF-3;
  • interferon signaling;
  • IKK-related kinases;
  • antiviral responses

Abstract: The ubiquitously expressed interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3) is directly activated following virus infection and functions as a key activator of the immediate-early Type 1 interferon (IFN) genes. Using DNA microarray analysis (8,556 genes) in Jurkat T cells inducibly expressing constitutively active IRF-3, several target genes directly regulated by IRF-3 were identified. Among the genes upregulated by IRF-3 were transcripts for a subset of known IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs), including ISG56, which functions as an inhibitor of translation initiation. Phosphorylation of C-terminal Ser/Thr residues—-382GGASSLENTVDLHISNSHPLSLTSDQY408—is required for IRF-3 activation. Using C-terminal point mutations and a novel phosphospecific antibody, Ser396 was characterized as the minimal phosphoacceptor site required in vivo for IRF-3 activation following Sendai virus (SeV) infection, expression of viral nucleocapsid, or double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) treatment. The identity of the virus-activated kinase (VAK) activity that targets and activates IRF-3 and IRF-7 has remained a critical missing link in the understanding of interferon signaling. We report that the IKK-related kinases—IKKε/TBK-1—are components of VAK that mediate IRF-3 and IRF-7 phosphorylation and thus functionally link the NF-κB and IRF pathways in the development of the antiviral response.