Avian interferons and their antiviral effectors

Interferon (IFN) responses, mediated by a myriad of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), are the most profound innate immune responses against viruses. Cumulatively, these IFN effectors establish a multi-layered antiviral state to safeguard the host against invading viral pathogens. Considerable genetic and functional characterizations of mammalian IFNs and their effectors have been made, and our understanding on the avian IFNs has started to expand. Similar to mammalian counterparts, three types of IFNs have been genetically characterized in most avian species with available annotated genomes. Intriguingly, chickens are capable of mounting potent innate immune responses upon various stimuli in the absence of essential components of IFN pathways including retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I) interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) and possibility IRF9. Understanding these 38 unique properties of the chicken IFN system would propose valuable targets for the development of potential therapeutics for a broader range of viruses of both veterinary and zoonotic importance. This review outlines recent developments in the roles of avian IFNs and ISGs against viruses, and highlight important areas of research towards our understanding of the antiviral functions of IFN effectors against viral infections in birds.

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