In mammals, IFNγ is the only type II IFN member, whereas most bony fish species have two IFNγ genes, namely IFNγ1 and IFNγ2. We report that both zebrafish IFNγ genes were unable to protect zebrafish larvae against viral infection, despite the fact that they moderately induced the expression of antiviral genes, strongly induced pro-inflammatory and antigen processing and presentation genes, and increased neutrophil numbers. Although both zebrafish IFNγs induced a similar set of immune genes, IFNγ1 was more powerful at inducing pro-inflammatory genes than IFNγ2, which correlated with its ability to promote larval death. Strikingly, IFNγ1-induced larval death was prevented by genetic ablation of the myeloid transcription factor SPI1 but not IL-1β or TNFα, suggesting that professional phagocytes are also one of the main targets of IFNγ in fish. In addition, the usefulness of the zebrafish for the identification of IFNγ-target genes is illustrated by the identification of several genes whose expression is also regulated in murine macrophages by IFNγ, namely two membrane-spanning 4-domain family members and the opioid growth factor receptor. Finally, we found for the first time that the thymic specific proteasome subunit PSMB11/β5t is regulated by IFNγ. Collectively, our data throw light on partially redundant functions of fish IFNγ genes, demonstrate that the pro-inflammatory and antigen presentation functions of IFNγ have been conserved during vertebrate evolution, and highlight the fact that zebrafish is an excellent model for studying IFNγ biology.
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