Chronicling the discovery of interferon tau. Academic Article uri icon


  • It has been 38 years since a protein, now known as interferon tau (IFNT), was discovered in ovine conceptus-conditioned culture medium. After 1979, purification and testing of native IFNT revealed its unique antiluteolyic activity to prevent the regression of corpora lutea on ovaries of nonpregnant ewes. Antiviral, antiproliferative and immunomodulatory properties of native and recombinant IFNT were demonstrated later. In addition, progesterone and IFNT were found to act cooperatively to silence expression of classical interferon stimulated genes in a cell-specific manner in ovine uterine luminal and superficial glandular epithelia. But, IFNT signaling through a STAT1/STAT2-independent pathway stimulates expression of genes, such as those for transport of glucose and amino acids, which are required for growth and development of the conceptus. Further, undefined mechanisms of action of IFNT are key to a servomechanism that allows ovine placental lactogen and placental growth hormone to affect the development of uterine glands and their expression of genes throughout gestation. IFNT also acts systemically to induce the expression of interferon stimulated genes that influence secretion of progesterone by the corpus luteum. Finally, IFNT has great potential as a therapeutic agent due to its low cytotoxicity, anti-inflammatory properties and effects to mitigate diabetes, obesity-associated syndromes and various autoimmune diseases.

published proceedings

  • Reproduction

altmetric score

  • 13.3

author list (cited authors)

  • Bazer, F. W., & Thatcher, W. W.

citation count

  • 59

complete list of authors

  • Bazer, Fuller W||Thatcher, William W

publication date

  • November 2017