Research ArticleImmunology

Single-cell analysis shows that paracrine signaling by first responder cells shapes the interferon-β response to viral infection

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Science Signaling  10 Feb 2015:
Vol. 8, Issue 363, pp. ra16
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005728

Taking the time to respond

One of the earliest responses of cells to viral infection is expression of the gene encoding interferon-β (Ifnb1). Within a population of cells exposed to virus, the overall immune response is shaped by the percentage of cells that become infected, the proportion of those infected cells that initially express Ifnb1, and the extent of Ifnb1 expression per cell. Patil et al. used single-cell imaging to quantify the amounts of Ifnb1 and viral mRNAs in infected human dendritic cells over time. Mathematical simulations of viral infection indicated that differences in the timing of Ifnb1 induction in individual cells contributed to the dynamics of the population. Indeed, further experiments showed that the earliest responders released paracrine signals that controlled the timing of the antiviral response of the remaining cells within the population. These results have implications for understanding how individual immune cells coordinate the extent of the immune response to viral infection.

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