Type I interferon (IFN) responses represent the canonical host innate immune response to viruses, which serves to upregulate expression of antiviral restriction factors and augment adaptive immune defences. There is clear evidence for type I IFN activity in both acute and chronic HIV-1 infection in vivo, and plasmacytoid dendritic cells have been identified as one important source for these responses, through innate immune detection of viral RNA by Toll-like receptor 7. In addition, new insights into the molecular mechanisms that trigger induction of type I IFNs suggest innate immune receptors for viral DNA may also mediate these responses. It is widely recognised that HIV-1 restriction factors share the characteristic of IFN-inducible expression, and that the virus has evolved to counteract these antiviral mechanisms. However, in some target cells, such as macrophages, IFN can still effectively restrict virus. In this context, HIV-1 shows the ability to evade innate immune recognition and thereby avoid induction of type I IFN in order to successfully establish productive infection. The relative importance of evasion of innate immune detection and evasion of IFN-inducible restriction in the natural history of HIV-1 infection is not known, and the data suggest that type I IFN responses may play a role in both viral control and in the immunopathogenesis of progressive disease. Further study of the relationship between HIV-1 infection and type I IFN responses is required to unravel these issues and inform the development of novel therapeutics or vaccine strategies.
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.