Intracellular Interferons in Fish: A Unique Means to Combat Viral Infection
We demonstrate for the first time in vertebrates, that alternative splicing of interferon (IFN) genes can lead to a functional intracellular IFN (iIFN). Fish IFN genes possess introns and in rainbow trout three alternatively spliced transcripts of the IFN1 gene exist. Two of the encoded IFNs are predicted to lack a signal peptide. When overexpressed these iIFNs induce antiviral responses. Variants of the two IFNR receptor chains (IFNAR1 and IFNAR2) lacking a signal peptide are also present in trout. Transfection of HEK 293T cells with the iIFN and iIFNR molecules results in STAT phosphorylation and induction of antiviral genes. These results show that fish possess a functioning iIFN system that may act as a novel defence to combat viral infection.