Interferon-lambda (IFN-λ) induces signal transduction and gene expression in human hepatocytes, but not in lymphocytes or monocytes

Harold Dickensheets, Faruk Sheikh, Ogyi Park, Bin Gao, Raymond P. Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


This study compared the ability of IFN-α and IFN-λ to induce signal transduction and gene expression in primary human hepatocytes, PBLs, and monocytes. IFN-α drug products are widely used to treat chronic HCV infection; however, IFN-α therapy often induces hematologic toxicities as a result of the broad expression of IFNARs on many cell types, including most leukocytes. rIFN-λ1 is currently being tested as a potential alternative to IFN-α for treating chronic HCV. Although IFN-λ has been shown to be active on hepatoma cell lines, such as HepG2 and Huh-7, its ability to induce responses in primary human hepatocytes or leukocytes has not been examined. We found that IFN-λ induces activation of Jak/STAT signaling in mouse and human hepatocytes, and the ability of IFN-λ to induce STAT activation correlates with induction of numerous ISGs. Although the magnitude of ISG expression induced by IFN-λ in hepatocytes was generally lower than that induced by IFN-α, the repertoire of regulated genes was quite similar. Our findings demonstrate that although IFN-α and IFN-λ signal through distinct receptors, they induce expression of a common set of ISGs in hepatocytes. However, unlike IFN-α, IFN-λ did not induce STAT activation or ISG expression by purified lymphocytes or monocytes. This important functional difference may provide a clinical advantage for IFN-λ as a treatment for chronic HCV infection, as it is less likely to induce the leukopenias that are often associated with IFN-α therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-385
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Hepatitis C virus
  • IFN-α
  • ISG
  • STAT
  • Tyrosine-phosphorylated

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology


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