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The EMBO journal

Interferon lambda 4 signals via the IFNλ receptor to regulate antiviral activity against HCV and coronaviruses.


PMID 24169568

Abstract

The IFNL4 gene is a recently discovered type III interferon, which in a significant fraction of the human population harbours a frameshift mutation abolishing the IFNλ4 ORF. The expression of IFNλ4 is correlated with both poor spontaneous clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and poor response to treatment with type I interferon. Here, we show that the IFNL4 gene encodes an active type III interferon, named IFNλ4, which signals through the IFNλR1 and IL-10R2 receptor chains. Recombinant IFNλ4 is antiviral against both HCV and coronaviruses at levels comparable to IFNλ3. However, the secretion of IFNλ4 is impaired compared to that of IFNλ3, and this impairment is not due to a weak signal peptide, which was previously believed. We found that IFNλ4 gets N-linked glycosylated and that this glycosylation is required for secretion. Nevertheless, this glycosylation is not required for activity. Together, these findings result in the paradox that IFNλ4 is strongly antiviral but a disadvantage during HCV infection.