A Weak Signal for Strong Responses: Interferon-alpha/beta Revisited

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2001 May;2(5):378-86. doi: 10.1038/35073080.


Biological systems have acquired adaptability and robustness against rapid environmental changes. A typical example is the immune system, which eradicates invading pathogens such as viruses. Interferons alpha and beta, which are produced in response to viral infection, are essential components of this system but are also produced at low levels in the absence of infection. What is the purpose of the constitutive weak interferon-alpha/beta signal?

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / immunology*
  • Interferon-beta / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*


  • Interferon-alpha
  • Interferon-beta