Interferons (IFNs) are essential for host defense. Although the antiviral effects of the type 1 IFNs IFN- and IFN- (IFN-/) have been established, their immunoregulatory functions, especially their ability to regulate IFN- production, are poorly understood. Here we show that IFN-/ activate STAT4 directly (STAT, signal transducers and activators of transcription) and that this is required for IFN- production during viral infections of mice, in concert with T cell receptor-derived signals. In contrast, STAT1 appears to negatively regulate IFN-/ induction of IFN-. Thus, type 1 IFNs, in addition to interleukin-12, provide pathways for innate regulation of adaptive immunity, and their immunoregulatory functions are controlled by modulating the activity of individual STATs.
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