Interferons (IFNs) are key host cytokines in the innate immune response to viral infection, and recent work has identified unique roles for IFN subtypes in regulating different aspects of infection. Currently emerging is a common theme that type III IFNs are critical in localized control of infection at mucosal barrier sites, while type I IFNs are important for broad systemic control of infections. The intestine is a particular site of interest for exploring these effects, as in addition to being the port of entry for a multitude of pathogens, it is a complex tissue with a variety of cell types as well as the presence of the intestinal microbiota. Here we focus on the roles of type I and III IFNs in control of enteric viruses, discussing what is known about signaling downstream from these cytokines, including induction of specific IFN-stimulated genes. We review viral strategies to evade IFN responses, effects of IFNs on the intestine, interactions between IFNs and the microbiota, and briefly discuss the role of IFNs in controlling viral infections at other barrier sites. Enhanced understanding of the coordinate roles of IFNs in control of viral infections may facilitate development of antiviral therapeutic strategies; here we highlight potential avenues for future exploration.
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