Viruses and interferon: a fight for supremacy

Nat Rev Immunol. 2002 Sep;2(9):675-87. doi: 10.1038/nri888.


The action of interferons (IFNs) on virus-infected cells and surrounding tissues elicits an antiviral state that is characterized by the expression and antiviral activity of IFN-stimulated genes. In turn, viruses encode mechanisms to counteract the host response and support efficient viral replication, thereby minimizing the therapeutic antiviral power of IFNs. In this review, we discuss the interplay between the IFN system and four medically important and challenging viruses -- influenza, hepatitis C, herpes simplex and vaccinia -- to highlight the diversity of viral strategies. Understanding the complex network of cellular antiviral processes and virus-host interactions should aid in identifying new and common targets for the therapeutic intervention of virus infection. This effort must take advantage of the recent developments in functional genomics, bioinformatics and other emerging technologies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computational Biology
  • Databases as Topic
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Genomics
  • Hepacivirus* / physiology
  • Hepatitis C / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis C / immunology
  • Hepatitis C / virology
  • Herpes Simplex / immunology
  • Herpes Simplex / virology
  • Humans
  • Interferon Type I / immunology*
  • Interferon Type I / therapeutic use
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / immunology
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / immunology
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / virology
  • Orthomyxoviridae* / physiology
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / immunology
  • Simplexvirus* / physiology
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Vaccinia / immunology
  • Vaccinia / virology
  • Vaccinia virus* / physiology
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / virology*
  • Virus Replication


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Interferon Type I
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Toll-Like Receptors