Expression of Ifnlr1 on intestinal epithelial cells is critical to the antiviral effects of interferon lambda against norovirus and reovirus

Megan T. Baldridge, Sanghyun Lee, Judy J. Brown, Nicole McAllister, Kelly Urbanek, Terence S. Dermody, Timothy J. Nice, Skip Virgin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Lambda interferon (IFN-λ) has potent antiviral effects against multiple enteric viral pathogens, including norovirus and rotavirus, in both preventing and curing infection. Because the intestine includes a diverse array of cell types, however, the cell(s) upon which IFN-λ acts to exert its antiviral effects is unclear. Here, we sought to identify IFN-λ-responsive cells by generation of mice with lineagespecific deletion of the receptor for IFN-λ, Ifnlr1. We found that expression of IFNLR1 on intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) in the small intestine and colon is required for enteric IFN-λ antiviral activity. IEC Ifnlr1 expression also determines the efficacy of IFN-λ in resolving persistent murine norovirus (MNoV) infection and regulates fecal shedding and viral titers in tissue. Thus, the expression of Ifnlr1 by IECs is necessary for the response to both endogenous and exogenous IFN-λ. We further demonstrate that IEC Ifnlr1 expression is required for the sterilizing innate immune effects of IFN-λ by extending these findings in Rag1-deficient mice. Finally, we assessed whether our findings pertained to multiple viral pathogens by infecting mice specifically lacking IEC Ifnlr1 expression with reovirus. These mice phenocopied Ifnlr1- null animals, exhibiting increased intestinal tissue titers and enhanced reovirus fecal shedding. Thus, IECs are the critical cell type responding to IFN-λ to control multiple enteric viruses. This is the first genetic evidence that supports an essential role for IECs in IFN-λ-mediated control of enteric viral infection, and these findings provide insight into the mechanism of IFN-λ-mediated antiviral activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02079-16
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2017


  • Innate immunity
  • Interferons
  • Mucosal immunity
  • Norovirus
  • Reovirus


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