Respiratory virus induction of alpha-, beta- and lambda-interferons in bronchial epithelial cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells

Allergy. 2009 Mar;64(3):375-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2008.01826.x. Epub 2009 Jan 28.


Background: Respiratory viruses, predominantly rhinoviruses are the major cause of asthma exacerbations. Impaired production of interferon-beta in rhinovirus infected bronchial epithelial cells (BECs) and of the newly discovered interferon-lambdas in both BECs and bronchoalveolar lavage cells, is implicated in asthma exacerbation pathogenesis. Thus replacement of deficient interferon is a candidate new therapy for asthma exacerbations. Rhinoviruses and other respiratory viruses infect both BECs and macrophages, but their relative capacities for alpha-, beta- and lambda-interferon production are unknown.

Methods: To provide guidance regarding which interferon type is the best candidate for development for treatment/prevention of asthma exacerbations we investigated respiratory virus induction of alpha-, beta- and lambda-interferons in BECs and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by reverse transferase-polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Results: Rhinovirus infection of BEAS-2B BECs induced interferon-alpha mRNA expression transiently at 8 h and interferon-beta later at 24 h while induction of interferon-lambda was strongly induced at both time points. At 24 h, interferon-alpha protein was not detected, interferon-beta was weakly induced while interferon-lambda was strongly induced. Similar patterns of mRNA induction were observed in primary BECs, in response to both rhinovirus and influenza A virus infection, though protein levels were below assay detection limits. In PBMCs interferon-alpha, interferon-beta and interferon-lambda mRNAs were all strongly induced by rhinovirus at both 8 and 24 h and proteins were induced: interferon-alpha>-beta>-lambda. Thus respiratory viruses induced expression of alpha-, beta- and lambda-interferons in BECs and PBMCs. In PBMCs interferon-alpha>-beta>-lambda while in BECs, interferon-lambda>-beta>-alpha.

Conclusions: We conclude that interferon-lambdas are likely the principal interferons produced during innate responses to respiratory viruses in BECs and interferon-alphas in PBMCs, while interferon-beta is produced by both cell types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / immunology
  • Interferon-alpha / biosynthesis*
  • Interferon-beta / biosynthesis*
  • Interferons / biosynthesis
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rhinovirus / immunology*


  • Interferon-alpha
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Interferon-beta
  • Interferons