Cytokine synergy: An underappreciated contributor to innate anti-viral immunity

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Inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor and the members of the interferon family, are potent mediators of the innate anti-viral immune response. The intracellular anti-viral states resulting from treatment of cultured cells with each of these molecules independently has been well studied; but, within complex tissues, the early inflammatory response is likely mediated by simultaneously expressed mixtures of these, and other, protective anti-viral cytokines. Such cytokine mixtures have been shown to induce potently synergistic anti-viral responses in vitro which are more complex than the simple summation of the individual cytokine response profiles. The physiological role of this ‘cytokine synergy’, however, remains largely unappreciated in vivo. This brief commentary will attempt to summarize the potential effects and mechanisms of anti-viral cytokine synergy as well as present several ‘real-world’ applications where this phenomenon might play an important role.

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