On standby: how the developing embryo guards against viral infection

Stem cells intrinsically express genes normally associated with the innate immune system, but in the absence of external stimuli such as viral infections. In new work published in EMBO Reports, the lab of Christa Bücker has discovered that expression of a key gene of the innate immune response, Irf1, is controlled by the gene regulatory network that regulates the transition from naïve to formative pluripotency during embryonic development. Their findings suggest that antiviral defense is upregulated to transiently protect the embryo from viral infections during a critical timepoint in development.

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