The interferon system: an overview

Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2002;6 Suppl A:A41-6; discussion A55-8. doi: 10.1053/ejpn.2002.0573.


Interferons are a family of related and naturally occurring signal proteins grouped in three major species (alpha, beta and gamma) according to their cellular origin and inducing agents and historically described for their antiviral activity. Upon binding to specific receptors they lead to the activation of a signal transduction pathway that activates a broad range of genes, that are now known involved not only in antiviral but also in immunomodulatory and antiproliferative activities. The inhibition of virus growth and/or cell proliferation by interferons is associated with several physiological changes, some of which depend on the activity of specific proteins that are interferon-inducible. This review will attempt to illustrate the history and main properties of the interferon system, taking a look at recent discoveries about some interferon-inducible genes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Interferon Inducers
  • Interferons / genetics
  • Interferons / physiology*
  • Nuclear Proteins*
  • Phosphoproteins*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / physiology
  • Receptors, Interferon / genetics
  • Receptors, Interferon / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Virus Replication / immunology


  • Interferon Inducers
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, Interferon
  • IFI16 protein, human
  • Interferons