Article ID: pjab.100.001
In the late 1970s, crude interferon samples were found to exhibit anti-tumour activity. This discovery led to the interferon as a “magic drug” for cancer patients. Many groups, including those in Tokyo, Zürich, and San Francisco, attempted to identify human interferon cDNAs. Tadatsugu Taniguchi was the first to announce the cloning of human interferon-β cDNA in the December 1979 issue of Proc. Jpn. Acad. Ser. B. This was followed by the cloning of human interferon-α by a Zürich group and interferon-γ by a group in Genentech in San Francisco. Recombinant interferon proteins were produced on a large scale, and interferon-α was widely used to treat C-type hepatitis patients. The biological functions of interferons were quickly elucidated with the purified recombinant interferons. The molecular mechanisms underlying virus-induced interferon gene expression were also examined using cloned chromosomal genes. The background that led to interferon gene cloning and its impact on cytokine gene hunting is described herein.