Type I interferons (IFNs) are critical effector cytokines of the immune system and were originally known for their important role in protecting against viral infections; however, they have more recently been shown to play protective or detrimental roles in many disease states. Type I IFNs consist of IFNα, IFNβ, IFNϵ, IFNκ, IFNω, and a few others, and they all signal through a shared receptor to exert a wide range of biological activities, including antiviral, antiproliferative, proapoptotic, and immunomodulatory effects. Though the individual type I IFN subtypes possess overlapping functions, there is growing appreciation that they also have unique properties. In this review, we summarize some of the mechanisms underlying differential expression of and signaling by type I IFNs, and we discuss examples of differential functions of IFNα and IFNβ in models of infectious disease, cancer, and autoimmunity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number606874
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Dec 21 2020


  • IFNα subtypes
  • IFNβ
  • autoimmunity
  • cancer
  • infection
  • type I interferons


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