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Professor Steve Goodbourn has identified strategies used by viruses to counteract interferons, a critical first line of defence against viral infection.

The role of interferons

Innate immune responses are rapidly mobilised to counter infection and are triggered by receptors that recognise distinctive structures commonly associated with pathogens but not normally seen in the cell. During the immune response to virus infection, a critical event is the induction of antiviral interferons; indeed these events are so important that viruses have evolved strategies to counteract them.

Interferon blockade

Working primarily with paramyxoviruses, which include many human and veterinary pathogens, Professor Goodbourn together with Professor Rick Randall (University of St Andrews) have established the importance of the interferon blockade in viral infection and have identified key mechanisms by which this is achieved. Despite having only a handful of genes, paramyxoviruses devote genes specifically to evade the interferon system. Professor Goodbourn’s research has established that the products of the V and C genes block the pattern recognition receptors mda5 and LGP2.

Cellular responses to viral infection

As well as characterising the mechanisms by which viruses antagonise the interferon system, Goodbourn and Randall are also exploring the cellular responses to viral infection. They have demonstrated that some types of paramyxoviruses are unable to prevent a host-dependent shut-off of translation, a phenomenon that appears to be due to inefficient mRNA processing by the viral RNA polymerase. Ultimately, a better understanding of these mechanisms could be exploited in antiviral drug discovery programmes.



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