Interferon-gamma: biologic functions and HCV therapy (type I/II) (1 of 2 parts)

A Gattoni, A Parlato, B Vangieri, M Bresciani, R Derna
La Clinica Terapeutica 2006, 157 (4): 377-86

PURPOSE: This review is aimed at exhaustively presenting and discussing the interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), a cytokine that plays an important role in inducing and modulating an array of immune responses.

DESIGN: A review of the most significant and recent clinical trials was performed.

OVERVIEW: Although IFN-gamma has some antiviral activity, it is much less active in this regard than type I IFNs. IFN-gamma is involved in the regulation of nearly all phases of the immune and inflammatory responses, including the activation and differentiation of T cells, B cells, NK cells, macrophages, and others. It is therefore best regarded as a distint immunoregulatory cytokine. IFN-gamma secretion is a hallmark of Th1 lymphocytes. It is also secreted by nearly all CD8 T cells, by some Th0 cells, and by NK cells. Each of these cell types secretes IFN-gamma only when activated, usually as part of immune response and especially in response to IL-2 and IL-12. IFN-gamma production is inhibited by IL-4, IL-10, TGFbeta, glucocorticoids, cyclosporin A and FK506. Nearly all cell types express the heterodimeric receptor for IFN-beta and respond to this cytokine by increasing the surface expression of class I MHC proteins. As a result, virtually any cell in the vicinity of an IFN-beta-secreting cell becomes more efficient at presenting endogenous antigens and hence a better target for cytotoxic killing if it harbors an intracellular pathogen. Unlike the type I IFNs, IFN-gamma also increases the expression of class II MHC proteins on professional APCs, and so promotes antigen presentation to helper T cells as well. It also induces de novo expression of class II MHC proteins on venular endothelial cells and on some other epithelial and connective tissue cells that do not otherwise express them, thus enabling these cell types to function as temporary APCs at sites of intense immune reactions. The effector functions of NK cells are to lyse virus-infected cells and to secrete IFN-gamma, which activates macrofages to destroy phagocytosed microbes. The mechanism of NK cell-mediates cytolysis is essentially the same as that of cytolysis by CTLS. NK cells lyse virally infected cells before antigen specific CTLS came become fully active, that is, during the first few days after viral infection. NK cells are expanded and activated by cytokines of innate immunity, such as IL-12 and IL-15, and they kill infected cells, especially those that display reduced levels of class I molecoles. Some tumors, especially those of hematopoietic origin, are targets of NK cells, perlevels or types of class I MHC molecules. Therefore, IFN-gamma serves critical functions in innate immunity and in specific cell-mediated immunity (in addition, IFN activates neutrophilis and stimulates the cytolitic activity of NK cells). Many IFNs-gamma induced effects result in heigtened immune surveillance.

CONCLUSIONS: IFN-gamma is a remarkable cytokine that orchestrates many distinct cellular programs through transcriptional control over large numbers of genes. Many IFNs-gamma-induced effects resulting in heightend immune surveillance and immune system function during infection have been discussed in this review. As the pathogens (microorganism with the potential to cause tissue injury or disease) augment local IFN-gamma production, and IFN-gamma augments the immune system response, an important function of IFN-gamma during in vivo infection is suggested. IFN-gamma is primarily secreted by activated T cells and natural killer cells, and can promote macrophage activation, mediate antiviral e antibacterial immunity, enhance antigen presentation, orchestrate activation of the innate immune system, coordinate lymphocyte-endothelium interaction, regulate Th1/Th2 balance, and control cellular proliferation and apoptosis.

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