The function of type I interferons in antimicrobial immunity

Curr Opin Immunol. 2000 Aug;12(4):419-24. doi: 10.1016/s0952-7915(00)00111-4.


Type I interferons (IFN-alpha and IFN-beta) were originally described as potent antiviral substances, which are produced upon infection of animal cells with viruses. Despite a large body of literature that has accumulated during the past 25 years, their regulatory function in the immune system is still much less appreciated. Recent studies have highlighted the production of type I IFNs, their function in the immune response to infectious agents and the target cells of these interferons. Type I IFNs clearly affect the release of proinflammatory cytokines or nitric oxide by dendritic cells and macrophages, the capacity of type II interferon (IFN-gamma) to activate phagocytes, the differentiation of T helper cells and the innate control of non-viral pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunity / immunology
  • Interferon Type I / biosynthesis
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism
  • Interferon-beta / biosynthesis
  • Interferon-beta / immunology*
  • Interferon-beta / metabolism
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology*
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-12 / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Interferon Type I
  • Interleukin-12
  • Interferon-beta
  • Interferon-gamma