Transcriptional control of metabolism by interferon regulatory factors

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2024 May 20. doi: 10.1038/s41574-024-00990-0. Online ahead of print.


Interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) comprise a family of nine transcription factors in mammals. IRFs exert broad effects on almost all aspects of immunity but are best known for their role in the antiviral response. Over the past two decades, IRFs have been implicated in metabolic physiology and pathophysiology, partly as a result of their known functions in immune cells, but also because of direct actions in adipocytes, hepatocytes, myocytes and neurons. This Review focuses predominantly on IRF3 and IRF4, which have been the subject of the most intense investigation in this area. IRF3 is located in the cytosol and undergoes activation and nuclear translocation in response to various signals, including stimulation of Toll-like receptors, RIG-I-like receptors and the cGAS-STING pathways. IRF3 promotes weight gain, primarily by inhibiting adipose thermogenesis, and also induces inflammation and insulin resistance using both weight-dependent and weight-independent mechanisms. IRF4, meanwhile, is generally pro-thermogenic and anti-inflammatory and has profound effects on lipogenesis and lipolysis. Finally, new data are emerging on the role of other IRF family members in metabolic homeostasis. Taken together, data indicate that IRFs serve as critical yet underappreciated integrators of metabolic and inflammatory stress.

Publication types

  • Review