Interferon-lambda3 (IFN-λ3) and its cognate receptor subunits in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri): genomic sequence retrieval, molecular identification and expression analysis

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e60048. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060048. Epub 2013 Mar 28.


Type III IFNs (IFN-λs) constitute a new subfamily with antiviral activities by signaling through a unique receptor complex composed of IFN-λs receptor 1 (IFNλR1) and interleukin-10 receptor 2 (IL10R2). As tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri) have shown susceptiblility to several human viruses, they are a potentially important model for analyzing viral infection. However, little is known about their IFN-λs system. We used the tree shrew genome to retrieve IFN-λs and their receptor contig sequences by BLASTN and BLASTZ algorithms, and GenScan was used to scan transcripts from the putative contig sequences. RT-PCR and bioinformatic methods were then used to clone and characterize the IFN-λs system. Due to its highest identity with human IFN-λ3, we opted to define one intact IFN-λ gene, tsIFN-λ3, as well as its two receptor subunits, tsIFNλR1 and tsIL10R2. Additionally, our results showed that tsIFN-λ3 contained many features conserved in IFN-λ3 genes from other mammals, including conserved signal peptide cleavage and glycosylation sites, and several residues responsible for binding to the type III IFNR. We also found six transcript variants in the receptors: three in tsIFNλR1, wherein different extracellular regions exist in three transmembrane proteins, resulting in different affinities with IFN-λs; and three more variants in tsIL10R2, encoding one transmembrane and two soluble proteins. Based on tissue distribution in the liver, heart, brain, lung, intestine, kidney, spleen, and stomach, we found that IFN-λs receptor complex was expressed in a variety of organs although the expression level differed markedly between them. As the first study to find transcript variants in IL-10R2, our study offers novel insights that may have important implications for the role of IFN-λs in tree shrews' susceptibility with a variety of human viruses, bolstering the arguments for using tree shrews as an animal model in the study of human viral infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genomics
  • Interferons / genetics*
  • Interferons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Interferon / genetics*
  • Receptors, Interferon / metabolism*
  • Tupaiidae / genetics
  • Tupaiidae / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Interferon
  • Interferons

Grant support

This work was supported by grants from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KSCX2-EW-J-23 and KSCX2-EW-R-12), the National Key Basic Research and Development Program (973 programme, 2007CB512807), the Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No.A0820) and the Key Laboratory of Animal Models and Human Disease Mechanisms of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.