Interferon-ε Protects the Female Reproductive Tract from Viral and Bacterial Infection

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Abstract

The innate immune system senses pathogens through pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs) that signal to induce effector cytokines, such as type I interferons (IFNs). We characterized IFN-ε as a type I IFN because it signaled via the Ifnar1 and Ifnar2 receptors to induce IFN-regulated genes. In contrast to other type I IFNs, IFN-ε was not induced by known PRR pathways; instead, IFN-ε was constitutively expressed by epithelial cells of the female reproductive tract (FRT) and was hormonally regulated. Ifn-ε-deficient mice had increased susceptibility to infection of the FRT by the common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) herpes simplex virus 2 and Chlamydia muridarum. Thus, IFN-ε is a potent antipathogen and immunoregulatory cytokine that may be important in combating STIs that represent a major global health and socioeconomic burden.

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