Revealing a new role for STAT3 in anti-viral immunity

Lead researcher

Dr Nollaig Bourke

Main finding

We found that the activation of the transcription factor STAT3 by the anti-viral cytokine interferon alpha (IFNa) was required for the anti-viral response against certain viruses.


Centre for Innate Immunity & Infectious Diseases

Research group

Regulation of Interferon and Innate Signalling Group


Dr Rachel Mahony, Dr Siobhan Gargan, Dr Kim Roberts, Dr Sinead Keating, Prof Andrew Bowie, Prof Cliona O'Farrelly, A/Prof Nigel Stevenson

Journal and article title

Most surprising

IFNa activation of anti-viral immunity is traditionally thought to occur predominately through the activation of STAT1 and STAT2, so the finding that activation of STAT3 in response to IFNa was crucial for mediating immunity against certain viruses was novel. This was through activation of a particular subset of genes that encode for proteins with anti-viral actions.

Future implications

These findings reflect that there is still much unknown about how IFNs mediate their biological effects, including anti-viral immunity. As IFNa is used clinically to treat viral infections, further understanding how it exerts its anti-viral effects may help further understand why some patients don't respond to IFNa therapy. Additionally, some viruses have evolved mechanisms to block the action of STAT3; therefore the finding that STAT3 activation is crucial for mediating certain anti-viral responses may explain why some viruses have evolved this mechanism.

Disease/health impact

Viral infection