One Step Ahead: Herpesviruses Light the Way to Understanding Interferon-Stimulated Genes (ISGs)
The host immune system is engaged in a constant battle with microorganisms, with the immediate detection of pathogenic invasion and subsequent signalling acting as crucial deterrents against the establishment of a successful infection. For this purpose, cells are equipped with a variety of sensors called pattern recognition receptors (PRR), which rapidly detect intruders leading to the expression of antiviral type I interferons (IFN). Type I IFN are crucial cytokines which exert their biological effects through the induction of hundreds of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). The expression profile of these ISGs varies depending on the virus. For a small subset of ISGs, their anti- or even proviral effects have been revealed, however, the vast majority are uncharacterised. The spotlight is now on herpesviruses, with their large coding capacity and long co-evolution with their hosts, as a key to understanding the impact of ISGs during viral infection. Studies are emerging which have identified multiple herpesviral antagonists specifically targeting ISGs, hinting at the significant role these proteins must play in host defence against viral infection, with the promise of more to come. In this review, we will discuss the current knowledge of the complex interplay between ISGs and human herpesviruses: the antiviral role of selected ISGs during herpesviral infections, how herpesviruses antagonise these ISGs and, in some cases, even exploit them to benefit viral infection.