The Impact of the Interferon/TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand Signaling Axis on Disease Progression in Respiratory Viral Infection and Beyond

Front Immunol. 2017 Mar 22:8:313. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00313. eCollection 2017.


Interferons (IFNs) are well described to be rapidly induced upon pathogen-associated pattern recognition. After binding to their respective IFN receptors and activation of the cellular JAK/signal transducer and activator of transcription signaling cascade, they stimulate the transcription of a plethora of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) in infected as well as bystander cells such as the non-infected epithelium and cells of the immune system. ISGs may directly act on the invading pathogen or can either positively or negatively regulate the innate and adaptive immune response. However, IFNs and ISGs do not only play a key role in the limitation of pathogen spread but have also been recently found to provoke an unbalanced, overshooting inflammatory response causing tissue injury and hampering repair processes. A prominent regulator of disease outcome, especially in-but not limited to-respiratory viral infection, is the IFN-dependent mediator TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) produced by several cell types including immune cells such as macrophages or T cells. First described as an apoptosis-inducing agent in transformed cells, it is now also well established to rapidly evoke cellular stress pathways in epithelial cells, finally leading to caspase-dependent or -independent cell death. Hereby, pathogen spread is limited; however in some cases, also the surrounding tissue is severely harmed, thus augmenting disease severity. Interestingly, the lack of a strictly controlled and well balanced IFN/TRAIL signaling response has not only been implicated in viral infection but might furthermore be an important determinant of disease progression in bacterial superinfections and in chronic respiratory illness. Conclusively, the IFN/TRAIL signaling axis is subjected to a complex modulation and might be exploited for the evaluation of new therapeutic concepts aiming at attenuation of tissue injury.

Keywords: acute lung injury; coronavirus; influenza; innate immunity; interferon; interferon-stimulated genes; respiratory syncytial virus; tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand.

Publication types

  • Review