Definition: A class of small (15–28 kD) protein and glycoprotein cytokines (15–28 kD) produced by T cells, fibroblasts, and other cells in response to viral infection and other biologic and synthetic stimuli. IFNs bind to specific receptors on cell membranes. Their effects include inducing enzymes, suppressing cell proliferation, inhibiting viral proliferation, enhancing the phagocytic activity of macrophages, and augmenting the cytotoxic activity of T lymphocytes. Interferons are divided into five major classes (alpha, beta, gamma, tau, and omega) and several subclasses (indicated by Arabic numerals and letters) on the basis of physicochemical properties, cells of origin, mode of induction, and antibody reactions.
[interfere + -on]
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