Editors' ChoiceImmunology

A Role for IFN-ε

See allHide authors and affiliations

Sci. Signal.  05 Mar 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 265, pp. ec57
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004117

Type I interferons (IFNs) are critical cytokines involved in host defense against pathogens, particularly viruses. IFN-ε is an IFN-like gene encoded within the type I IFN locus in mice and humans whose function has not been characterized. Fung et al. created mice with a genetic deletion in Ifn-ε and found that, like other type I IFNs, IFN-ε signals through the IFN-α receptors 1 and 2. However, unlike these other cytokines, which are primarily expressed by immune cells and are induced upon immune cell triggering, IFN-ε was expressed exclusively by epithelial cells of the female reproductive tract in both mice and humans and its expression was hormonally regulated. IFN-ε–deficient mice were more susceptible to infection with herpes simplex virus 2 and Chlamydia muridarum, two common sexually transmitted pathogens.

K. Y. Fung, N. E. Mangan, H. Cumming, J. C. Horvat, J. R. Mayall, S. A. Stifter, N. De Weerd, L. C. Roisman, J. Rossjohn, S. A. Robertson, J. E. Schjenken, B. Parker, C. E. Gargett, H. P. T. Nguyen, D. J. Carr, P. M. Hansbro, P. J. Hertzog, Interferon-ε protects the female reproductive tract from viral and bacterial infection. Science 339, 1088–1092 (2013). [Abstract] [Full Text]