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Interferon lambda 4 impairs viral antigen presentation and attenuates T cell responses

Genetic variants of the interferon lambda (IFNL) gene locus are strongly associated with spontaneous and IFN treatment induced clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Individuals with the ancestral IFNL4-dG allele are not able to clear HCV in the acute phase and develop chronic hepatitis C (CHC) with more than 90% probability. Paradoxically, the IFNL4-dG allele encodes a fully functional IFNλ4 protein with antiviral activity against HCV and coronavirus. Here we describe a hitherto unknown effect of IFNλ4 on HCV antigen presentation. Only minor amounts of IFNλ4 are secreted, because the protein is largely retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) where it induces ER stress. Stressed cells were significantly weaker activators of HCV specific CD8+ T cells. This was not due to reduced MHC I surface presentation or extracellular IFNλ4 effects, since T cell responses could be restored by exogenous loading of MHC with HCV antigens. Rather, IFNλ4 induced ER stress impaired HCV antigen processing and/or loading onto the MHC I complex. Our results provide a potential explanation for the IFNλ4 – HCV paradox.

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Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001007820 NextSeq 550 18
Publications Citations
Interferon lambda 4 impairs hepatitis C viral antigen presentation and attenuates T cell responses.
Nat Commun 12: 2021 4882