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For decades, type I IFNs have been considered indispensable and unique antiviral mediators for the activation of rapid innate antiviral protection. However, the recent discovery of type III IFNs is challenging this paradigm. Since their identification in 2002/2003 by two independent groups, type III IFNs or IFN-λs, also known as IL-28/29, have been the subject of increased study with consequent recognition of their importance in virology and immunology. Initial reports suggested that IFN-λs functionally resemble type I IFNs. Although IFN-λs and classical type I IFNs (IFN-α/β) utilize distinct receptor complexes for signaling, both types of IFNs activate similar intracellular signaling pathways and biological activities, including the ability to induce antiviral state in cells, and both type I and type III IFNs are induced by viral infection. However, different antiviral potency, pattern of their induction and differential tissue expression of their corresponding receptor subunits suggest that the type I and type III IFN antiviral systems do not merely duplicate each other. Recent studies have started to reveal unique biological activities of IFN-λs in and beyond innate antiviral immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-590
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Opinion in Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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