Dose-dependent differences in HIV inhibition by different interferon alpha subtypes while having overall similar biologic effects

Erika Schlaepfer, Audrey Fahrny, Maarja Gruenbach, Stefan P. Kuster, Viviana Simon, Gideon Schreiber, Roberto F. Speck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Type I interferons (IFNs) are key players in the antiviral immune response. Interferon alpha (IFN-α) belongs to this class of IFNs and comprises 12 subtypes that differ from each other in their binding affinities for a common receptor and, thus, in their signaling potencies. Recent data suggest that IFN-α6 and -α14 are the most potent IFN-α subtypes in restricting HIV replication when applied exogenously. However, in the context of antiviral therapy, IFNs are administered at high doses, which may compensate for differences in potency seen between IFN-α subtypes. In this study, we reexamined whether IFN-α subtypes induce different biological activities, with a focus on how IFN-α treatment dose affects cellular responses to HIV in primary CD4 + T cells, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and macrophages. We found that the subtypes' antiviral activities were dose dependent, with > 0% inhibition of HIV replication at a high dose of all IFN-αs except the weak IFN- α/β receptor (IFNAR) binder, IFN-α1. The quality of the responses engendered by IFN-α1, -α2, -α6, and -α14 was highly comparable, with essentially the same set of genes induced by all four subtypes. Hierarchal cluster analysis revealed that the individual donors were stronger determinants for the IFN-stimulated-gene (ISG) responses than the specific IFN-α subtype used for stimulation. Notably, IFN-α2- derived mutants with substantially reduced IFNAR2 binding still inhibited HIV replication efficiently, whereas mutants with increased IFNAR1 binding potentiated antiviral activity. Overall, our results support the idea that IFN-α subtypes do not induce different biological responses, given that each subtype is exogenously applied at bioequivalent doses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00637-18
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Antiviral therapy
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Interferons
  • Therapeutic efficacy


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