The type I IFN-α/β gene family was identified about a quarter of a century ago as a prototype of many cytokine gene families, which led to the subsequent burst of studies on molecular mechanisms underlying cytokine gene expression and signaling. Although originally discovered for their activity to confer an antiviral state on cells, more evidence has recently been emerging regarding IFN-α/β actions on cell growth, differentiation and many immunoregulatory activities, which are of even greater fundamental biological significance. Indeed, much attention has recently been focused on the induction and function of the IFN-α/β system regulated by Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which are critical for linking the innate and adaptive immunities. The understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of IFN-α/β gene induction by TLRs and viruses is an emerging theme, for which much new insight has been gained over the past few years.
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