Structural Biochemistry/Protein function/Interferon
Interferons are specialized proteins that come in three various classes alpha, beta and gamma. Though each varies slightly in function they are all produced by the immune system and released in the response of a pathogen as an antiviral agent. When released in the body they have the sole function of identifying infection, activating immune cells and increasing antigen production. They are used by cells as a way to warn others of the presences of a viral cell. To do this the cell releases interferons, which then send signals to close cells so they may create a protective defense. Once released the cells within the presence of the viral cell produce two enzymes called protein kinase R (PKR) and RNAse L. At the release of these enzymes RNA is destroyed and protein synthesis is reduced, thus preventing protein synthesis of the viral gene. Interferons also have the ability to increase the activity of the p53 gene and produce numerous other proteins to help combat a viral infection.