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One of the hallmarks of antiviral responses to infection is the production of interferons and subsequently of interferon stimulated genes. Interferon stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) is among the earliest and most abundant proteins induced upon interferon signalling, encompassing versatile functions in host immunity. ISG15 is a ubiquitin like modifier that can be conjugated to substrates in a process analogous to ubiquitylation and referred to as ISGylation. The free unconjugated form can either exist intracellularly or be secreted to function as a cytokine. Interestingly, ISG15 has been reported to be both advantageous and detrimental to the development of immunopathology during infection. This review describes recent findings on the role of ISG15 in antiviral responses in human infection models, with a particular emphasis on autophagy, inflammatory responses and cellular metabolism combined with viral strategies of counteracting them. The field of ISGylation has steadily gained momentum; however much of the previous studies of virus infections conducted in mouse models are in sharp contrast with recent findings in human cells, underscoring the need to summarise our current understanding of its potential antiviral function in humans and identify knowledge gaps which need to be addressed in future studies.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochem Soc Trans

Publication Date



ISG15, RNA viruses, immune response, post translational modifications, virus–host interactions