AbstractInterferons (IFNs), in addition to their antiviral action, have been shown to inhibit cell proliferation, induce differentiation of some tumor cells, activate NK cells and macrophages, and modulate phagocytosis. The exact mechanism(s) by which IFN can bring about these pleiotropic actions is not known. Recent studies, including our own (presented here), showed that IFN can augment free radical generation in the cells. Free radicals can stimulate lymphocytes mitogenically and activate macrophages and NK cells. It is also known that activated machophages and polymorphs produce oxidative metabolites, such as hydrogen peroxide, which is responsible for sterilizing action against microorganisms and cytotoxic activity against tumor cells. Free radicals are also known to inhibit cell division. Since IFN can augment free radical generation, it is suggested that free radicals mediate some of the actions of IFN.
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