Mammalian models, most notably the mouse and ferret, have been instrumental in the assessment of avian influenza virus pathogenicity and transmissibility, and have been used widely to characterize the molecular determinants that confer H5N1 virulence in mammals. However, while H7 influenza viruses have typically been associated with conjunctivitis and/or mild respiratory disease in humans, severe disease and death is also possible, as underscored by the recent emergence of H7N9 viruses in China. Despite the public health need to understand the pandemic potential of this virus subtype, H7 virus pathogenesis and transmission has not been as extensively studied. In this review, we discuss the heterogeneity of H7 subtype viruses isolated from humans, and the characterization of mammalian models to study the virulence of H7 subtype viruses associated with human infection, including viruses of both high and low pathogenicity and following multiple inoculation routes. The use of the ferret transmission model to assess the influence of receptor binding preference among contemporary H7 influenza viruses is described. These models have enabled the study of preventative and therapeutic agents, including vaccines and antivirals, to reduce disease burden, and have permitted a greater appreciation that not all highly pathogenic influenza viruses are created equal.
Modulating the host response is a promising approach to treating influenza, caused by a virus whose pathogenesis is determined in part by the reaction it elicits within the host. Though the pathogenicity of emerging H7N9 influenza virus in several animal models has been reported, these studies have not included a detailed characterization of the host response following infection. Therefore, we characterized the transcriptomic response of BALB/c mice infected with H7N9 (A/Anhui/01/2013) virus and compared it to the responses induced by H5N1 (A/Vietnam/1203/2004), H7N7 (A/Netherlands/219/2003), and pandemic 2009 H1N1 (A/Mexico/4482/2009) influenza viruses. We found that responses to the H7 subtype viruses were intermediate to those elicited by H5N1 and pdm09H1N1 early in infection but that they evolved to resemble the H5N1 response as infection progressed. H5N1, H7N7, and H7N9 viruses were pathogenic in mice, and this pathogenicity correlated with increased transcription of cytokine response genes and decreased transcription of lipid metabolism and coagulation signaling genes. This three-pronged transcriptomic signature was observed in mice infected with pathogenic H1N1 strains such as the 1918 virus, indicating that it may be predictive of pathogenicity across multiple influenza virus strains. Finally, we used host transcriptomic profiling to computationally predict drugs that reverse the host response to H7N9 infection, and we identified six FDA-approved drugs that could potentially be repurposed to treat H7N9 and other pathogenic influenza viruses.
Respiratory pathogens have traditionally been studied by examining the exposure and infection of respiratory tract tissues. However, these studies typically overlook the role of ocular surfaces, which represent both a potential site of virus replication and a portal of entry for the establishment of a respiratory infection. To model transocular virus entry in a mammalian species, we established a novel inoculation method that delivers an aerosol inoculum exclusively to the ferret ocular surface. Using influenza virus as a representative respiratory pathogen, we found that both human and avian viruses mounted productive respiratory infections in ferrets following ocular-only aerosol inoculation, and we demonstrated that H5N1 virus can result in a fatal infection at doses below 10 PFU or with exposure times as short as 2 min. Ferrets inoculated by the ocular aerosol route with an avian (H7N7, H7N9) or human (H1N1, H3N2v) virus were capable of transmitting the virus to naïve animals in direct-contact or respiratory-droplet models, respectively. Our results reveal that ocular-only exposure to virus-containing aerosols constitutes a valid exposure route for a potentially fatal respiratory infection, even for viruses that do not demonstrate an ocular tropism, underscoring the public health implications of ocular exposure in clinical or occupational settings.
The domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is an important animal model for multiple human respiratory diseases. It is considered the 'gold standard' for modeling human influenza virus infection and transmission. Here we describe the 2.41 Gb draft genome assembly of the domestic ferret, constituting 2.28 Gb of sequence plus gaps. We annotated 19,910 protein-coding genes on this assembly using RNA-seq data from 21 ferret tissues. We characterized the ferret host response to two influenza virus infections by RNA-seq analysis of 42 ferret samples from influenza time-course data and showed distinct signatures in ferret trachea and lung tissues specific to 1918 or 2009 human pandemic influenza virus infections. Using microarray data from 16 ferret samples reflecting cystic fibrosis disease progression, we showed that transcriptional changes in the CFTR-knockout ferret lung reflect pathways of early disease that cannot be readily studied in human infants with cystic fibrosis disease.
The biological basis for the poor immunogenicity of unadjuvanted avian influenza A virus vaccines in mammals is not well understood. Here, we mutated the hemagglutinin (HA) of two H1N1 virus vaccines to determine whether virus receptor binding specificity contributes to the low immunogenicity of avian influenza virus vaccines. Mutations were introduced into the HA of an avian influenza virus, A/Duck/New York/15024-21/96 (Dk/96) which switched the binding preference from ?2,3- to ?2,6-linked sialic acid (SA). A switch in receptor specificity of the human A/South Carolina/1/18 (SC/18) virus generated a mutant virus with ?2,3 SA (avian) binding preference. Inactivated vaccines were generated and administered to mice and ferrets intramuscularly. We found that the vaccines with human receptor binding preference induced slightly higher antibody titers and cell-mediated immune responses compared to their isogenic viruses with avian receptor binding specificity. Upon challenge with DK/96 or SC18 virus, differences in lung virus titers between the vaccine groups with different receptor-binding specificities were minimal. Overall, our data suggest that receptor binding specificity contributes only marginally to the immunogenicity of avian influenza vaccines and that other factors may also be involved.
A novel avian-origin H7N9 influenza A virus (IAV) emerged in China in 2013, causing mild to lethal human respiratory infections. H7N9 originated with multiple reassortment events between avian viruses and carries genetic markers of human adaptation. Determining whether H7N9 induces a host response closer to that with human or avian IAV is important in order to better characterize this emerging virus. Here we compared the human lung epithelial cell response to infection with A/Anhui/01/13 (H7N9) or highly pathogenic avian-origin H5N1, H7N7, or human seasonal H3N2 IAV. The transcriptomic response to H7N9 was highly specific to this strain but was more similar to the response to human H3N2 than to that to other avian IAVs. H7N9 and H3N2 both elicited responses related to eicosanoid signaling and chromatin modification, whereas H7N9 specifically induced genes regulating the cell cycle and transcription. Among avian IAVs, the response to H7N9 was closest to that elicited by H5N1 virus. Host responses common to H7N9 and the other avian viruses included the lack of induction of the antigen presentation pathway and reduced proinflammatory cytokine induction compared to that with H3N2. Repression of these responses could have an important impact on the immunogenicity and virulence of H7N9 in humans. Finally, using a genome-based drug repurposing approach, we identified several drugs predicted to regulate the host response to H7N9 that may act as potential antivirals, including several kinase inhibitors, as well as FDA-approved drugs, such as troglitazone and minocycline. Importantly, we validated that minocycline inhibited H7N9 replication in vitro, suggesting that our computational approach holds promise for identifying novel antivirals.
To determine the genetic and antigenic relatedness as well as the cross-protective immunity of human H1N1 and avian H5N1 influenza virus neuraminidase (NA), we immunized rabbits with either a baculovirus-expressed recombinant NA from A/Beijing/262/95 (BJ/262) H1N1 or A/Hong Kong/483/97 (HK/483) H5N1 virus. Cross-reactive antibody responses were evaluated by multiple serological assays and cross-protection against H5N1 virus challenge was evaluated in mice. In a neuraminidase inhibition (NI) test, the antisera exhibited substantial inhibition of NA activity of the homologous virus, but failed to inhibit the NA activity of heterologous virus. However, these antisera exhibited low levels of cross-reactivity measured by plaque size reduction, replication inhibition, single radial hemolysis, and ELISA assays. Passive immunization with HK/483 NA-specific antisera significantly reduced virus replication and disease, and afforded almost complete protection against lethal homologous virus challenge in mice. However, passive immunization with BJ/262 (H1N1) NA-specific antisera was ineffective at providing cross-protection against lethal H5N1 virus challenge and only slightly reduced weight loss. Substantial amino acid variation among the NA antigenic sites was observed between BJ/262 and HK/483 virus, which was consistent with the lack of cross-reactive NI activity by the antibody and limited cross-protective immunity in mice. These results show a strong correlation between the lack of cross-protective immunity and low structural similarities of NA from a human seasonal H1N1 virus and an avian H5N1 influenza virus.
Influenza H3N2 A viruses continue to circulate in swine and occasionally infect humans, resulting in outbreaks of variant influenza H3N2 [A(H3N2)v] virus. It has been previously demonstrated in ferrets that A(H3N2)v viruses transmit as efficiently as seasonal influenza viruses, raising concern over the pandemic potential of these viruses. However, A(H3N2)v viruses have not acquired the ability to transmit efficiently among humans, which may be due in part to existing cross-reactive immunity to A(H3N2)v viruses. Although current seasonal H3N2 and A(H3N2)v viruses are antigenically distinct from one another, historical H3N2 viruses have some antigenic similarity to A(H3N2)v viruses and previous exposure to these viruses may provide a measure of immune protection sufficient to dampen A(H3N2)v virus transmission. Here, we evaluated whether prior seasonal H3N2 influenza virus vaccination or infection affects virus replication and transmission of A(H3N2)v virus in the ferret animal model. We found that the seasonal trivalent inactivated influenza virus vaccine (TIV) or a monovalent vaccine prepared from an antigenically related 1992 seasonal influenza H3N2 (A/Beijing/32/1992) virus failed to substantially reduce A(H3N2)v (A/Indiana/08/2011) virus shedding and subsequent transmission to naive hosts. Conversely, ferrets primed by seasonal H3N2 virus infection displayed reduced A(H3N2)v virus shedding following challenge, which blunted transmission to naive ferrets. A higher level of specific IgG and IgA antibody titers detected among infected versus vaccinated ferrets was associated with the degree of protection offered by seasonal H3N2 virus infection. The data demonstrate in ferrets that the efficiency of A(H3N2)v transmission is disrupted by preexisting immunity induced by seasonal H3N2 virus infection.
Evaluation of: Nishiura H, Yen H-L, Cowling BJ. Sample size considerations for one-to-one animal transmission studies of the influenza A viruses. PLoS ONE 8(1), e55358 (2013). There is an urgent need to model in a laboratory setting the capacity of wild-type influenza viruses to transmit between mammals, to determine the molecular determinants and identify biological properties that confer influenza virus transmissibility, and to explore both pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical methods to inhibit virus transmission. Owing to its close physiologic match to humans, researchers typically utilize the ferret to measure influenza virus transmissibility. Nishiura et al. highlight the dilemma facing researchers utilizing the ferret transmission model: how to provide high-quality data to guide public health efforts, while ensuring the ethical use of animals in limited-size, individual, one-to-one transmission experiments. However, the responsible interpretation of data generated using this model can overcome this potential limitation. A closer examination of previously published studies utilizing this model as it is currently employed reveals that the sample size of these studies is not always as small as it may appear.
Previously, polymer-attached zanamivir had been found to inhibit influenza A viruses in vitro far better than did small-molecule zanamivir (1) itself. The aim of this study was to identify in vitro-using the plaque reduction assay-a highly potent 1-polymer conjugate, and subsequently test its antiviral efficacy in vivo.
The hemagglutinin (HA) protein is a major virulence determinant for the 1918 pandemic influenza virus; however, it encodes no known virulence-associated determinants. In comparison to seasonal influenza viruses of lesser virulence, the 1918 H1N1 virus has fewer glycosylation sequons on the HA globular head region. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we found that a 1918 HA recombinant virus, of high virulence, could be significantly attenuated in mice by adding two additional glycosylation sites (asparagine [Asn] 71 and Asn 286) on the side of the HA head. The 1918 HA recombinant virus was further attenuated by introducing two additional glycosylation sites on the top of the HA head at Asn 142 and Asn 172. In a reciprocal experimental approach, deletion of HA glycosylation sites (Asn 142 and Asn 177, but not Asn 71 and Asn 104) from a seasonal influenza H1N1 virus, A/Solomon Islands/2006 (SI/06), led to increased virulence in mice. The addition of glycosylation sites to 1918 HA and removal of glycosylation sites from SI/06 HA imposed constraints on the theoretical structure surrounding the glycan receptor binding sites, which in turn led to distinct glycan receptor binding properties. The modification of glycosylation sites for the 1918 and SI/06 viruses also caused changes in viral antigenicity based on cross-reactive hemagglutinin inhibition antibody titers with antisera from mice infected with wild-type or glycan mutant viruses. These results demonstrate that glycosylation patterns of the 1918 and seasonal H1N1 viruses directly contribute to differences in virulence and are partially responsible for their distinct antigenicity.
With the global spread of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) influenza virus, there are increasing worries about evolution through antigenic drift. One way previous seasonal H1N1 and H3N2 influenza strains have evolved over time is by acquiring additional glycosylations in the globular head of their hemagglutinin (HA) proteins; these glycosylations have been believed to shield antigenically relevant regions from antibody immune responses. We added additional HA glycosylation sites to influenza A/Netherlands/602/2009 recombinant (rpH1N1) viruses, reflecting their temporal appearance in previous seasonal H1N1 viruses. Additional glycosylations resulted in substantially attenuated infection in mice and ferrets, whereas deleting HA glycosylation sites from a pre-pandemic virus resulted in increased pathogenicity in mice. We then more directly investigated the interactions of HA glycosylations and antibody responses through mutational analysis. We found that the polyclonal antibody response elicited by wild-type rpH1N1 HA was likely directed against an immunodominant region, which could be shielded by glycosylation at position 144. However, rpH1N1 HA glycosylated at position 144 elicited a broader polyclonal response able to cross-neutralize all wild-type and glycosylation mutant pH1N1 viruses. Moreover, mice infected with a recent seasonal virus in which glycosylation sites were removed elicited antibodies that protected against challenge with the antigenically distant pH1N1 virus. Thus, acquisition of glycosylation sites in the HA of H1N1 human influenza viruses affected not only their pathogenicity and ability to escape from polyclonal antibodies elicited by previous influenza virus strains but also their ability to induce cross-reactive antibodies against drifted antigenic variants.
On 29 March 2013, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first reported case of human infection with an avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. The recent human infections with H7N9 virus, totalling over 130 cases with 39 fatalities to date, have been characterized by severe pulmonary disease and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This is concerning because H7 viruses have typically been associated with ocular disease in humans, rather than severe respiratory disease. This recent outbreak underscores the need to better understand the pathogenesis and transmission of these viruses in mammals. Here we assess the ability of A/Anhui/1/2013 and A/Shanghai/1/2013 (H7N9) viruses, isolated from fatal human cases, to cause disease in mice and ferrets and to transmit to naive animals. Both H7N9 viruses replicated to higher titre in human airway epithelial cells and in the respiratory tract of ferrets compared to a seasonal H3N2 virus. Moreover, the H7N9 viruses showed greater infectivity and lethality in mice compared to genetically related H7N9 and H9N2 viruses. The H7N9 viruses were readily transmitted to naive ferrets through direct contact but, unlike the seasonal H3N2 virus, did not transmit readily by respiratory droplets. The lack of efficient respiratory droplet transmission was corroborated by low receptor-binding specificity for human-like ?2,6-linked sialosides. Our results indicate that H7N9 viruses have the capacity for efficient replication in mammals and human airway cells and highlight the need for continued public health surveillance of this emerging virus.
Influenza viruses pose a major public health burden to communities around the world by causing respiratory infections that can be highly contagious and spread rapidly through the population. Despite extensive research on influenza viruses, the modes of transmission occurring most often among humans are not entirely clear. Contributing to this knowledge gap is the lack of an understanding of the levels of infectious virus present in respirable aerosols exhaled from infected hosts. Here, we used the ferret model to evaluate aerosol shedding patterns and measure the amount of infectious virus present in exhaled respirable aerosols. By comparing these parameters among a panel of human and avian influenza viruses exhibiting diverse respiratory droplet transmission efficiencies, we are able to report that ferrets infected by highly transmissible influenza viruses exhale a greater number of aerosol particles and more infectious virus within respirable aerosols than ferrets infected by influenza viruses that do not readily transmit. Our findings improve our understanding of the ferret transmission model and provide support for the potential for influenza virus aerosol transmission.
H7 subtype influenza A viruses, responsible for numerous outbreaks in land-based poultry in Europe and the Americas, have caused over 100 cases of confirmed or presumed human infection over the last decade. The emergence of a highly pathogenic avian influenza H7N3 virus in poultry throughout the state of Jalisco, Mexico, resulting in two cases of human infection, prompted us to examine the virulence of this virus (A/Mexico/InDRE7218/2012 [MX/7218]) and related avian H7 subtype viruses in mouse and ferret models. Several high- and low-pathogenicity H7N3 and H7N9 viruses replicated efficiently in the respiratory tract of mice without prior adaptation following intranasal inoculation, but only MX/7218 virus caused lethal disease in this species. H7N3 and H7N9 viruses were also detected in the mouse eye following ocular inoculation. Virus from both H7N3 and H7N9 subtypes replicated efficiently in the upper and lower respiratory tracts of ferrets; however, only MX/7218 virus infection caused clinical signs and symptoms and was capable of transmission to naive ferrets in a direct-contact model. Similar to other highly pathogenic H7 viruses, MX/7218 replicated to high titers in human bronchial epithelial cells, yet it downregulated numerous genes related to NF-?B-mediated signaling transduction. These findings indicate that the recently isolated North American lineage H7 subtype virus associated with human conjunctivitis is capable of causing severe disease in mice and spreading to naive-contact ferrets, while concurrently retaining the ability to replicate within ocular tissue and allowing the eye to serve as a portal of entry.
Respiratory viruses (including adenovirus, influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, coronavirus, and rhinovirus) cause a broad spectrum of disease in humans, ranging from mild influenza-like symptoms to acute respiratory failure. While species D adenoviruses and subtype H7 influenza viruses are known to possess an ocular tropism, documented human ocular disease has been reported following infection with all principal respiratory viruses. In this review, we describe the anatomical proximity and cellular receptor distribution between ocular and respiratory tissues. All major respiratory viruses and their association with human ocular disease are discussed. Research utilizing in vitro and in vivo models to study the ability of respiratory viruses to use the eye as a portal of entry as well as a primary site of virus replication is highlighted. Identification of shared receptor-binding preferences, host responses, and laboratory modeling protocols among these viruses provides a needed bridge between clinical and laboratory studies of virus tropism.
Recent studies described the experimental adaptation of influenza H5 HAs that confers respiratory droplet transmission (rdt) to influenza virus in ferrets. Acquisition of the ability to transmit via aerosol may lead to the development of a highly pathogenic pandemic H5 virus. Vaccines are predicted to play an important role in H5N1 control should the virus become readily transmissible between humans. We obtained PBMCs from patients who received an A/Vietnam/1203/2004 H5N1 subunit vaccine. Human hybridomas were then generated and characterized. We identified antibodies that bound the HA head domain and recognized both WT and rdt H5 HAs. We used a combination of structural techniques to define a mechanism of antibody recognition of an H5 HA receptor-binding site that neutralized H5N1 influenza viruses and pseudoviruses carrying the HA rdt variants that have mutations near the receptor-binding site. Incorporation or retention of this critical antigenic site should be considered in the design of novel H5 HA immunogens to protect against mammalian-adapted H5N1 mutants.
Highly pathogenic influenza A viruses, including avian H5N1 viruses and the 1918 pandemic virus, cause severe respiratory disease in humans and animals. Virus infection is followed by intense pulmonary congestion due to an extensive influx of macrophages and neutrophils, which can release large quantities of reactive oxygen species potentially contributing to the pathogenesis of lung disease. Here, the role of nitric oxide (NO), a potent signaling molecule in inflammation, was evaluated following highly pathogenic influenza virus challenge in mice. We observed higher levels of NO in mice infected with H5N1 and 1918 viruses as compared to a seasonal H1N1 virus. Mice deficient in inducible NO synthase (NOS2(-/-)) exhibited reduced morbidity, reduced mortality, and diminished cytokine production in lung tissue following H5N1 and 1918-virus challenge, compared with wild-type control mice. Furthermore, systemic treatment of mice with the NOS inhibitor NG-monomethyl-l-arginine delayed weight loss and death among 1918 virus infected mice compared to untreated control animals. This study demonstrates that NO contributes to the pathogenic outcome of H5N1 and 1918 viral infections in the mouse model.
Avian influenza H5, H7 and H9 viruses top the World Health Organizations (WHO) list of subtypes with the greatest pandemic potential. Here we describe a recombinant virus-like particle (VLP) that co-localizes hemagglutinin (HA) proteins derived from H5N1, H7N2, and H9N2 viruses as an experimental vaccine against these viruses. A baculovirus vector was configured to co-express the H5, H7, and H9 genes from A/Viet Nam/1203/2004 (H5N1), A/New York/107/2003 (H7N2) and A/Hong Kong/33982/2009 (H9N2) viruses, respectively, as well as neuraminidase (NA) and matrix (M1) genes from A/Puerto Rico/8/1934 (H1N1) virus. Co-expression of these genes in Sf9 cells resulted in production of triple-subtype VLPs containing HA molecules derived from the three influenza viruses. The triple-subtype VLPs exhibited hemagglutination and neuraminidase activities and morphologically resembled influenza virions. Intranasal vaccination of ferrets with the VLPs resulted in induction of serum antibody responses and efficient protection against experimental challenges with H5N1, H7N2, and H9N2 viruses.
H5N1 influenza viruses are capable of causing severe disease and death in humans, and represent a potential pandemic subtype should they acquire a transmissible phenotype. Due to the expanding host and geographic range of this virus subtype, there is an urgent need to better understand the contribution of both virus and host responses following H5N1 virus infection to prevent and control human disease. The use of mammalian models, notably the mouse and ferret, has enabled the detailed study of both complex virus-host interactions as well as the contribution of individual viral proteins and point mutations which influence virulence. In this review, we describe the behavior of H5N1 viruses which exhibit high and low virulence in numerous mammalian species, and highlight the contribution of inoculation route to virus pathogenicity. The involvement of host responses as studied in both inbred and outbred mammalian models is discussed. The roles of individual viral gene products and molecular determinants which modulate the severity of H5N1 disease in vivo are presented. This research contributes not only to our understanding of influenza virus pathogenesis, but also identifies novel preventative and therapeutic targets to mitigate the disease burden caused by avian influenza viruses.
Pathological studies on fatal cases caused by 2009 pandemic influenza H1N1 virus (2009 pH1N1) reported extensive diffuse alveolar damage and virus infection predominantly in the lung parenchyma. However, the host immune response after severe 2009 pH1N1 infection is poorly understood. Herein, we investigated viral load, the immune response, and apoptosis in lung tissues from 50 fatal cases with 2009 pH1N1 virus infection. The results suggested that 7 of the 27 cytokines/chemokines showed remarkably high expression, including IL-1 receptor antagonist protein, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-?, IL-8, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, macrophage inflammatory protein 1-?, and interferon-inducible protein-10 in lung tissues of 2009 pH1N1 fatal cases. Viral load, which showed the highest level on day 7 of illness onset and persisted until day 17 of illness, was positively correlated with mRNA levels of IL-1 receptor antagonist protein, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, macrophage inflammatory protein 1-?, interferon-inducible protein-10, and regulated on activation normal T-cell expressed and secreted. Apoptosis was evident in lung tissues stained by the TUNEL assay. Decreased Fas and elevated FasL mRNA levels were present in lung tissues, and cleaved caspase-3 was frequently seen in pneumocytes, submucosal glands, and lymphoid tissues. The pathogenesis of the 2009 pH1N1 virus infection is associated with viral replication and production of proinflammatory mediators. FasL and caspase-3 are involved in the pathway of 2009 pH1N1 virus-induced apoptosis in lung tissues, and the disequilibrium between the Fas and FasL level in lung tissues could contribute to delayed clearance of the virus and subsequent pathological damages.
Nonspecific anti-inflammatory drugs have been purported to reduce the burden of severe influenza disease. We demonstrate that, unlike oseltamivir administration, simvastatin administration did not reduce morbidity, mortality, or viral load of mice infected with H1N1 or H5N1 viruses. No added benefit to the efficacy of oseltamivir therapy was observed when mice were treated in combination with simvastatin. Modest reductions in lung cytokine production in H5N1 but not H1N1 virus-infected simvastatin-treated mice indicate a potential benefit for statin use in mitigating disease following severe virus infection.
While influenza viruses are typically considered respiratory pathogens, the ocular system represents a secondary entry point for virus to establish a productive respiratory infection and the location for rare instances of virus-induced conjunctivitis. We used the ferret model to conduct a side-by-side comparison of virus infectivity, kinetics of viral replication, and induction of host responses following inoculation by either the intranasal or ocular routes with two viruses, A/Netherlands/230/03 (H7N7) and A/Panama/2007/99 (H3N2). We show that ocular inoculation resulted in delayed virus replication and reduced levels of proinflammatory cytokine and chemokine transcript in respiratory tract but not ocular tissues compared with intranasally inoculated animals. We identified numerous proinflammatory mediators with known roles in ocular disease elicited in ferret eye tissue following influenza virus infection. These findings provide a greater understanding of the modulation of host responses following different inoculation routes and underscore the risk associated with ocular exposure to influenza viruses.
The increased worldwide awareness of seasonal and pandemic influenza, including pandemic H1N1 virus, has stimulated interest in the development of economic platforms for rapid, large-scale production of safe and effective subunit vaccines. In recent years, plants have demonstrated their utility as such a platform and have been used to produce vaccine antigens against various infectious diseases. Previously, we have produced in our transient plant expression system a recombinant monomeric hemagglutinin (HA) protein (HAC1) derived from A/California/04/09 (H1N1) strain of influenza virus and demonstrated its immunogenicity and safety in animal models and human volunteers. In the current study, to mimic the authentic HA structure presented on the virus surface and to improve stability and immunogenicity of the HA antigen, we generated trimeric HA by introducing a trimerization motif from a heterologous protein into the HA sequence. Here, we describe the engineering, production in Nicotiana benthamiana plants, and characterization of the highly purified recombinant trimeric HA protein (tHA-BC) from A/California/04/09 (H1N1) strain of influenza virus. The results demonstrate the induction of serum hemagglutination inhibition antibodies by tHA-BC and its protective efficacy in mice against a lethal viral challenge. In addition, the immunogenic and protective doses of tHA-BC were much lower compared with monomeric HAC1. Further investigation into the optimum vaccine dose and/or regimen as well as the stability of trimerized HA is necessary to determine whether trimeric HA is a more potent vaccine antigen than monomeric HA.
The 2009/2010 pandemic influenza virus (H1N1pdm) contains an avian-lineage PB2 gene that lacks E627K and D701N substitutions important in the pathogenesis and transmission of avian-origin viruses in humans or other mammals. Previous studies have shown that PB2-627K is not necessary because of a compensatory Q591R substitution. The role that PB2-701N plays in the H1N1pdm phenotype is not well understood. Therefore, PB2-D701N was introduced into an H1N1pdm virus (A/New York/1682/2009 (NY1682)) and analyzed in vitro and in vivo. Mini-genome replication assay, in vitro replication characteristics in cell lines, and analysis in the mouse and ferret models demonstrated that PB2-D701N increased virus replication rates and resulted in more severe pathogenicity in mice and more efficient transmission in ferrets. In addition, compared to the NY1682-WT virus, the NY1682-D701N mutant virus induced less IFN-? and replicated to a higher titer in primary human alveolar epithelial cells. These findings suggest that the acquisition of the PB2-701N substitution by H1N1pdm viruses may result in more severe disease or increase transmission in humans.
Understanding the role of host factors during lethal influenza virus infection is critical to deciphering the events that determine the fate of the host. One such factor is encoded by the Mx1 gene, which confers resistance to influenza virus infection. Here, we compared pathology and global gene expression profiles in lung tissue from BALB/c (Mx1(-)) and BALB · A2G-Mx1 mice (Mx1(+/+)) infected with the fully reconstructed 1918 pandemic influenza virus. Mx1(+/+) mice showed less tissue damage than Mx(-) animals, and pathology and mortality were further reduced by treating the mice with interferon prior to infection. Using global transcriptional profiling, we identified distinct molecular signatures associated with partial protection, complete protection, and the contribution of interferon to the host response. In the absence of interferon treatment, partial protection was characterized by the generation of an acute response with the upregulation of genes associated with apoptosis, reactive oxygen species, and cell migration. Complete protection was characterized by the downregulation of cytokine and chemokine genes previously associated with influenza virus pathogenesis. The contribution of interferon treatment to total protection in virus-infected Mx1(+/+) mice was characterized by the altered regulation of cell cycle genes. These genes were upregulated in Mx1(+/+) mice treated with interferon but downregulated in the absence of interferon treatment. Our results suggest that Mx1(+/+) mice generate a protective antiviral response by controlling the expression of key modulator molecules associated with influenza virus lethality.
The majority of human infections associated with H7 influenza viruses have resulted in ocular and not respiratory disease. While oseltamivir has been prescribed to individuals presenting with conjunctivitis following H7 virus exposure, it is unknown if oseltamivir inhibits virus replication in ocular tissue. We demonstrate that H7 viruses possess sensitivity to neuraminidase inhibitors and that administration of oseltamivir before ocular virus challenge in mice inhibits H7N7 and H7N3 virus replication in ocular and respiratory tissues.
Host innate immunity is the first line of defense against invading pathogens, including influenza viruses. Ferrets are well recognized as the best model of influenza virus pathogenesis and transmission, but little is known about the innate immune response of ferrets after infection with this virus. The goal of this study was to investigate the contribution of localized host responses to influenza virus pathogenicity and transmissibility in this model by measuring the level of messenger RNA expression of 12 cytokines and chemokines in the upper and lower respiratory tracts of ferrets infected with H5N1, H1N1, or H3N2 influenza viruses that exhibit diverse virulence and transmissibility in ferrets. We found a strong temporal correlation between inflammatory mediators and the kinetics and frequency of transmission, clinical signs associated with transmission, peak virus shedding, and virulence. Our findings point to a link between localized innate immunity and influenza virus transmission and disease progression.
The Spanish influenza virus pandemic of 1918 was responsible for 40 million to 50 million deaths and is antigenically similar to the swine lineage 2009 pandemic influenza virus. Emergence of the 2009 pandemic from swine into humans has raised the possibility that low levels of cross-protective immunity to past shared epitopes could confer protection. In this study, influenza viruslike particles (VLPs) were engineered to express the hemagglutinin (HA) and genes from the 1918 influenza virus to evaluate the duration of cross-protection to the H1N1 pandemic strain by vaccinating young mice (8 to 12 weeks) and then allowing the animals to age to 20 months. This immunity was long lasting, with homologous receptor-blocking antibodies detected throughout the lifespan of vaccinated mice. Furthermore, the 1918 VLPs fully protected aged mice from 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus challenge 16 months after vaccination. Histopathological assessment showed that aged vaccinated mice had significant protection from alveolar infection but less protection of the bronchial tissue than adult vaccinated mice. Additionally, passive transfer of immune serum from aged vaccinated mice resulted in protection from death but not morbidity. This is the first report describing the lifelong duration of cross-reactive immune responses elicited by a 1918 VLP vaccine in a murine model. Importantly, these lifelong immune responses did not result in decreased total viral replication but did prevent infection of the lower respiratory tract. These findings show that immunity acquired early in life can restrict the anatomical location of influenza viral replication, rather than preventing infection, in the aged.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses continue to cause sporadic human infections with a high fatality rate. Respiratory failure due to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a complication among hospitalized patients. Since progressive pulmonary endothelial damage is the hallmark of ARDS, we investigated host responses following HPAI virus infection of human pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells. Evaluation of these cells for the presence of receptors preferred by influenza virus demonstrated that avian-like (?2-3-linked) receptors were more abundant than human-like (?2-6-linked) receptors. To test the permissiveness of pulmonary endothelial cells to virus infection, we compared the replication of selected seasonal, pandemic (2009 H1N1 and 1918), and potentially pandemic (H5N1) influenza virus strains. We observed that these cells support productive replication only of HPAI H5N1 viruses, which preferentially enter through and are released from the apical surface of polarized human endothelial monolayers. Furthermore, A/Thailand/16/2004 and A/Vietnam/1203/2004 (VN/1203) H5N1 viruses, which exhibit heightened virulence in mammalian models, replicated to higher titers than less virulent H5N1 strains. VN/1203 infection caused a significant decrease in endothelial cell proliferation compared to other subtype viruses. VN/1203 virus was also found to be a potent inducer of cytokines and adhesion molecules known to regulate inflammation during acute lung injury. Deletion of the H5 hemagglutinin (HA) multibasic cleavage site did not affect virus infectivity but resulted in decreased virus replication in endothelial cells. Our results highlight remarkable tropism and infectivity of the H5N1 viruses for human pulmonary endothelial cells, resulting in the potent induction of host inflammatory responses.
Because the general population is largely naive to H5N1 influenza, antibodies generated to H5 allow analysis of novel influenza vaccines independent of background immunity from previous infection. We assessed the safety and immunogenicity of DNA encoding H5 as a priming vaccine to improve antibody responses to inactivated influenza vaccination.
Continued H5N1 virus infection in humans highlights the need for vaccine strategies that provide cross-clade protection against this rapidly evolving virus. We report a comparative evaluation in ferrets of the immunogenicity and cross-protective efficacy of isogenic mammalian cell-grown, live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) and adjuvanted, whole-virus, inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), produced from a clade 1 H5N1 6:2 reassortant vaccine candidate (caVN1203-Len17rg) based on the cold-adapted A/Leningrad/134/17/57 (H2N2) master donor virus. Two doses of LAIV or IIV provided complete protection against lethal homologous H5N1 virus challenge and a reduction in virus shedding and disease severity after heterologous clade 2.2.1 H5N1 virus challenge and increased virus-specific serum and nasal wash antibody levels. Although both vaccines demonstrated cross-protective efficacy, LAIV induced higher levels of nasal wash IgA and reduction of heterologous virus shedding, compared with IIV. Thus, enhanced respiratory tract antibody responses elicited by LAIV were associated with improved cross-clade protection.
We generated from a single blood sample five independent human mAbs that recognized the Sa antigenic site on the head of influenza hemagglutinin and exhibited inhibitory activity against a broad panel of H1N1 strains. All five Abs used the V(H)3-7 and J(H)6 gene segments, but at least four independent clones were identified by junctional analysis. High-throughput sequence analysis of circulating B cells revealed that each of the independent clones were members of complex phylogenetic lineages that had diversified widely using a pattern of progressive diversification through somatic mutation. Unexpectedly, B cells encoding multiple diverging lineages of these clones, including many containing very few mutations in the Ab genes, persisted in the circulation. Conversely, we noted frequent instances of amino acid sequence convergence in the Ag combining sites exhibited by members of independent clones, suggesting a strong selection for optimal binding sites. We suggest that maintenance in circulation of a wide diversity of somatic variants of dominant clones may facilitate recognition of drift variant virus epitopes that occur in rapidly mutating virus Ags, such as influenza hemagglutinin. In fact, these Ab clones recognize an epitope that acquired three glycosylation sites mediating escape from previously isolated human Abs.
The conserved influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) stem domain elicits cross-reactive antibodies, but epitopes in the globular head typically elicit strain-specific responses because of the hypervariability of this region. We isolated human monoclonal antibody 5J8, which neutralized a broad spectrum of 20th century H1N1 viruses and the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus. Fine mapping of the interaction unexpectedly revealed a novel epitope between the receptor-binding pocket and the Ca? antigenic site on HA. This antibody exposes a new mechanism underlying broad immunity against H1N1 influenza viruses and identifies a conserved epitope that might be incorporated into engineered H1 virus vaccines.
Influenza is a human pathogen that continues to pose a public health threat. The use of small mammalian models has become indispensable for understanding the virulence of influenza viruses. Among numerous species used in the laboratory setting, only the ferret model is equally well suited for studying both the pathogenicity and transmissibility of human and avian influenza viruses. Here, we compare the advantages and limitations of the mouse, ferret and guinea pig models for research with influenza A viruses, emphasizing the multifarious uses of the ferret in the assessment of influenza viruses with pandemic potential. Research performed in the ferret model has provided information, support and guidance for the public health response to influenza viruses in humans. We highlight the recent and emerging uses of this species in influenza virus research that are advancing our understanding of virus-host interactions.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H7 virus infection in humans frequently results in conjunctivitis as a major symptom. However, our understanding of what properties govern virus subtype-specific tropism, and of the host responses responsible for eliciting ocular inflammation and pathogenicity following influenza virus infection, are not well understood. To study virus-host interactions in ocular tissue, we infected primary human corneal and conjunctival epithelial cells with H7, H5, and H1 subtype viruses. We found that numerous virus subtypes were capable of infecting and replicating in multiple human ocular cell types, with the highest titers observed with highly pathogenic H7N7 and H5N1 viruses. Similar patterns of proinflammatory cytokine and chemokine production following influenza virus infection were observed in ocular and respiratory cells. However, primary ocular cells infected with HPAI H7N7 viruses were found to have elevated levels of interleukin-1? (IL-1?), a cytokine previously implicated in ocular disease pathology. Furthermore, H7N7 virus infection of corneal epithelial cells resulted in enhanced and significant increases in the expression of genes related to NF-?B signal transduction compared with that after H5N1 or H1N1 virus infection. The differential induction of cytokines and signaling pathways in human ocular cells following H7 virus infection marks the first association of H7 subtype-specific host responses with ocular tropism and pathogenicity. In particular, heightened expression of genes related to NF-?B-mediated signaling transduction following HPAI H7N7 virus infection in primary corneal epithelial cells, but not respiratory cells, identifies activation of a signaling pathway that correlates with the ocular tropism of influenza viruses within this subtype.
Infections with highly pathogenic H5N1 avian (HPAI) and 1918 pandemic H1N1 influenza viruses cause uncontrolled local and systemic inflammation. The mechanism for this response is poorly understood, despite its importance as a determinant of virulence. Therefore we profiled cellular microRNAs of lung tissue from cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis) infected with a HPAI and a less pathogenic 1918 H1N1 reassortant virus to understand microRNA contribution to host response. We identified 23 microRNAs associated with the extreme virulence of HPAI, with expression patterns inversely correlated with that of predicted gene targets. Pathway analyses confirmed that these targets were associated with aberrant and uncontrolled inflammatory responses and increased cell death. Importantly, similar microRNAs were associated with lethal 1918 pandemic virus infections in mice. This study suggests that virulence of highly pathogenic influenza viruses may be mediated in part by cellular microRNA through dysregulation of genes critical to the inflammatory process.
Influenza viruses isolated during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic generally lack known molecular determinants of virulence associated with previous pandemic and highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses. The frequency of the amino acid substitution D222G in the hemagglutinin (HA) of 2009 H1N1 viruses isolated from severe but not mild human cases represents the first molecular marker associated with enhanced disease. To assess the relative contribution of this substitution in virus pathogenesis, transmission, and tropism, we introduced D222G by reverse genetics in the wild-type HA of the 2009 H1N1 virus, A/California/04/09 (CA/04). A dose-dependent glycan array analysis with the D222G virus showed a modest reduction in the binding avidity to human-like (?2-6 sialylated glycan) receptors and an increase in the binding to avian-like (?2-3 sialylated glycan) receptors in comparison with wild-type virus. In the ferret pathogenesis model, the D222G mutant virus was found to be similar to wild-type CA/04 virus with respect to lethargy, weight loss and replication efficiency in the upper and lower respiratory tract. Moreover, based on viral detection, the respiratory droplet transmission properties of these two viruses were found to be similar. The D222G virus failed to productively infect mice inoculated by the ocular route, but exhibited greater viral replication and weight loss than wild-type CA/04 virus in mice inoculated by the intranasal route. In a more relevant human cell model, D222G virus replicated with delayed kinetics compared with wild-type virus but to higher titer in human bronchial epithelial cells. These findings suggest that although the D222G mutation does not influence virus transmission, it may be considered a molecular marker for enhanced replication in certain cell types.
Understanding the transmission ability of newly emerging influenza viruses is central to the development of public health preparedness and prevention strategies. Animals are used to model influenza virus infection and transmission, but the routinely used intranasal inoculation of a liquid virus suspension does not reflect natural infection. We report the development of an inoculation method that delivers an influenza virus aerosol inoculum to ferrets and the characterization of size distribution and viable virus present in aerosols shed from infected ferrets during normal breathing and sneezing. By comparing virus deposition, infectivity, virulence, and transmissibility among animals inoculated intranasally or by aerosols with a human (H3N2) or avian (H5N1) influenza virus, we demonstrate that aerosol inoculations more closely resemble a natural, airborne influenza virus infection and that viable virus is measurable in droplets and droplet nuclei exhaled by infected ferrets. These methods will provide improved risk assessment of emerging influenza viruses that pose a threat to public health.
While the current influenza vaccine strategy is dependent on eliciting neutralizing antibodies to the hemagglutinin (H or HA) surface glycoprotein, antigenic drifts and occasional antigenic shifts necessitate constant surveillance and annual updates to the vaccine components. The ectodomain of the matrix 2 (M2e) channel protein has been proposed as a universal vaccine candidate, although it has not yet been shown to elicit neutralizing antibodies. Utilizing a liposome-based vaccine technology, an M2e vaccine (L-M2e-HD/MPL) was tested and shown to stimulate the production of anti-M2e antibodies which precipitated with whole virus and inhibited viral cell lysis by multiple type A strains of influenza virus using a novel in vitro assay. The anti-M2e antibodies also conferred complete protection following passive transfer from L-M2e-HD/MPL vaccinated mice to naïve mice challenged with H1N1 virus. Significantly higher levels of IL-4 compared to IFN-? were secreted by the splenocytes of L-M2e-HD/MPL vaccinated mice incubated with M2e. In addition, depletion of CD4 cells or CD4 cells plus CD8 cells from L-M2e-HD/MPL vaccinated mice using monoclonal antibodies markedly decreased the level of protection of the vaccine when compared to just CD8 depletion of L-M2e-HD/MPL vaccinated mice. These results suggest that the protective immune response elicited by this vaccine is mediated primarily by a Th2 mechanism.
To better understand the early virus-host interactions of the pandemic 2009 A(H1N1) viruses in humans, we examined early host responses following infection of human epithelial cell cultures with three 2009 A(H1N1) viruses (A/California/08/2009, A/Mexico/4108/2009, and A/Texas/15/2009), or a seasonal H1N1 vaccine strain (A/Solomon Islands/3/2006). We report here that infection with pandemic A/California/08/2009 and A/Mexico/4108/2009 viruses resulted in differences in virus infectivity compared to either pandemic A/Texas/15/2009 or the seasonal H1N1 vaccine strain. In addition, IFN-? levels were decreased in cell cultures infected with either the A/California/08/2009 or the A/Mexico/4108/2009 virus. Furthermore, infection with A/California/08/2009 and A/Mexico/4108/2009 viruses resulted in lower expression of four key proinflammatory markers (IL-6, RANTES, IP-10, and MIP-1?) compared with infection with either A/Texas/15/2009 or A/Solomon Islands/3/2006. Taken together, our results demonstrate that 2009 A(H1N1) viruses isolated during the Spring wave induced varying degrees of early host antiviral and inflammatory responses in human respiratory epithelial cells, highlighting the strain-specific nature of these responses, which play a role in clinical disease.
Despite existing vaccines and specific therapies, epidemics of seasonal influenza annually claim 200,000-500,000 lives worldwide. Pandemic influenza represents an even greater threat, with numerous potentially pandemic viruses circulating in nature. Development of multi-specific vaccines against multiple pandemic or seasonal strains is important for human health and the global economy. Here we report a novel virus-like particle (VLP) platform that contains three hemagglutinin (HA) subtypes. This recombinant vaccine design resulted in the expression of three HA subtypes co-localized within a VLP. Experimental triple-HA VLPs containing HA proteins derived from H5N1, H7N2, and H2N3 viruses were immunogenic and protected ferrets from challenge from all three potentially pandemic viruses. Similarly, VLPs containing HA subtypes derived from seasonal H1N1, H3N2, and type B influenza viruses protected ferrets from three seasonal influenza viruses. We conclude that this technology may represent a novel strategy for rapid development of trivalent seasonal and pandemic vaccines.
Although H5N1 influenza viruses have been responsible for hundreds of human infections, these avian influenza viruses have not fully adapted to the human host. The lack of sustained transmission in humans may be due, in part, to their avian-like receptor preference. Here, we have introduced receptor binding domain mutations within the hemagglutinin (HA) gene of two H5N1 viruses and evaluated changes in receptor binding specificity by glycan microarray analysis. The impact of these mutations on replication efficiency was assessed in vitro and in vivo. Although certain mutations switched the receptor binding preference of the H5 HA, the rescued mutant viruses displayed reduced replication in vitro and delayed peak virus shedding in ferrets. An improvement in transmission efficiency was not observed with any of the mutants compared to the parental viruses, indicating that alternative molecular changes are required for H5N1 viruses to fully adapt to humans and to acquire pandemic capability.
The 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus continues to circulate among the human population as the predominant H1N1 subtype. Epidemiological studies and airborne transmission studies using the ferret model have shown that the transmission efficiency of 2009 H1N1 viruses is lower than that of previous seasonal strains and the 1918 pandemic H1N1 strain. We recently correlated this reduced transmission efficiency to the lower binding affinity of the 2009 H1N1 hemagglutinin (HA) to ?2?6 sialylated glycan receptors (human receptors). Here we report that a single point mutation (Ile219?Lys; a base pair change) in the glycan receptor-binding site (RBS) of a representative 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus, A/California/04/09 or CA04/09, quantitatively increases its human receptor-binding affinity. The increased human receptor-affinity is in the same range as that of the HA from highly transmissible seasonal and 1918 pandemic H1N1 viruses. Moreover, a 2009 H1N1 virus carrying this mutation in the RBS (generated using reverse genetics) transmits efficiently in ferrets by respiratory droplets thereby reestablishing our previously observed correlation between human receptor-binding affinity and transmission efficiency. These findings are significant in the context of monitoring the evolution of the currently circulating 2009 H1N1 viruses.
In March 2009, a swine origin influenza A (2009 H1N1) virus was introduced into the human population and quickly spread from North America to multiple continents. Human serologic studies suggest that seasonal influenza virus vaccination or infection would provide little cross-reactive serologic immunity to the pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus. However, the efficacy of seasonal influenza infection or vaccination against 2009 H1N1 virus replication and transmission has not been adequately evaluated in vivo. Here, ferrets received one or two doses of the US licensed 2008-2009 live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) intranasally. An additional group of ferrets were inoculated with the A/Brisbane/59/07 (H1N1) virus to model immunity induced by seasonal influenza virus infection. All vaccinated and infected animals possessed high titer homologous hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) and neutralizing antibodies, with no demonstrable cross-reactive antibodies against 2009 H1N1 virus. However, in comparison to non-immune controls, immunized ferrets challenged with pandemic A/Mexico/4482/09 virus displayed a significant reduction in body temperature and virus shedding. The impact of single-dose LAIV inoculation on 2009 H1N1 disease and virus transmission was also measured in vaccinated ferrets that were challenged with pandemic A/Netherlands/1132/09 virus. Although a single dose of LAIV reduced virus shedding and the frequency of transmission following homologous seasonal virus challenge, it failed to reduce respiratory droplet transmission of 2009 H1N1 virus. The results demonstrate that prior immunization with seasonal LAIV or H1N1 virus infection provides some cross-protection against the 2009 H1N1 virus, but had no significant effect on the transmission efficiency of the 2009 H1N1 virus.
Human infections with highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza viruses continue to occur in many parts of the world and pose a considerable public health threat. With the use of animal models, the identification of virulence determinants has been instrumental in improving our understanding of how these viruses cause severe disease in humans. Two genetically similar H5N1 viruses (A/Thailand/16/2004 and A/Thailand/SP83/2004) exhibit high or low virulence phenotypes, respectively, in multiple animal models. Reassortant viruses were generated from this virus pair and evaluated in ferrets. Each of the polymerase genes of A/Thailand/16/2004 virus individually conferred increased virulence to A/Thailand/SP83/2004 virus while the neuraminidase of the low virulence virus reduced virulence and replication efficiency of the virulent virus in ferrets unless the homologous HA was present. Our results demonstrate that H5N1 virus virulence determinants are polygenic and that there is an important correlation between polymerase adaptation, efficient replication in the host, and virulence.
Avian influenza A viruses of the H7 subtype have resulted in more than 100 cases of human infection since 2002. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H7 viruses have the capacity to cause severe respiratory disease and even death; however, the induction of the human innate immune response to H7 virus infection has not been well characterized. To better understand H7 virus pathogenesis in the human respiratory tract, we employed a polarized human bronchial epithelial cell model and primary human monocyte-derived macrophages. Here, we show that infection with HPAI H7 viruses resulted in a delayed and weakened production of cytokines, including the type I interferon response, compared with infections of other influenza A subtypes, including H7 viruses of low pathogenicity. These studies revealed that H7 viruses vary greatly in their ability to activate host innate responses and may contribute to the virulence of these viruses observed in humans.
We previously reported widespread differential expression of long non-protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) in response to virus infection. Here, we expanded the study through small RNA transcriptome sequencing analysis of the host response to both severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and influenza virus infections across four founder mouse strains of the Collaborative Cross, a recombinant inbred mouse resource for mapping complex traits. We observed differential expression of over 200 small RNAs of diverse classes during infection. A majority of identified microRNAs (miRNAs) showed divergent changes in expression across mouse strains with respect to SARS-CoV and influenza virus infections and responded differently to a highly pathogenic reconstructed 1918 virus compared to a minimally pathogenic seasonal influenza virus isolate. Novel insights into miRNA expression changes, including the association with pathogenic outcomes and large differences between in vivo and in vitro experimental systems, were further elucidated by a survey of selected miRNAs across diverse virus infections. The small RNAs identified also included many non-miRNA small RNAs, such as small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), in addition to nonannotated small RNAs. An integrative sequencing analysis of both small RNAs and long transcripts from the same samples showed that the results revealing differential expression of miRNAs during infection were largely due to transcriptional regulation and that the predicted miRNA-mRNA network could modulate global host responses to virus infection in a combinatorial fashion. These findings represent the first integrated sequencing analysis of the response of host small RNAs to virus infection and show that small RNAs are an integrated component of complex networks involved in regulating the host response to infection.
The structural and functional significance of somatic insertions and deletions in antibody chains is unclear. Here, we demonstrate that a naturally occurring three-amino-acid insertion within the influenza virus-specific human monoclonal antibody 2D1 heavy-chain variable region reconfigures the antibody-combining site and contributes to its high potency against the 1918 and 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza viruses. The insertion arose through a series of events, including a somatic point mutation in a predicted hot-spot motif, introduction of a new hot-spot motif, a molecular duplication due to polymerase slippage, a deletion due to misalignment, and additional somatic point mutations. Atomic resolution structures of the wild-type antibody and a variant in which the insertion was removed revealed that the three-amino-acid insertion near the base of heavy-chain complementarity-determining region (CDR) H2 resulted in a bulge in that loop. This enlarged CDR H2 loop impinges on adjacent regions, causing distortion of the CDR H1 architecture and its displacement away from the antigen-combining site. Removal of the insertion restores the canonical structure of CDR H1 and CDR H2, but binding, neutralization activity, and in vivo activity were reduced markedly because of steric conflict of CDR H1 with the hemagglutinin antigen.
Wild type human influenza viruses do not usually grow well in embryonated hens eggs, the substrate of choice for the production of inactivated influenza vaccine, and vaccine viruses need to be developed specifically for this purpose. In the event of a pandemic of influenza, vaccine viruses need to be created with utmost speed. At the onset of the current A(H1N1) pandemic in April 2009, a network of laboratories began a race against time to develop suitable candidate vaccine viruses. Two approaches were followed, the classical reassortment approach and the more recent reverse genetics approach. This report describes the development and the characteristics of current pandemic H1N1 candidate vaccine viruses.
Efficient human-to-human transmission is a necessary property for the generation of a pandemic influenza virus. To date, only influenza A viruses within the H1-H3 subtypes have achieved this capacity. However, sporadic cases of severe disease in individuals following infection with avian influenza A viruses over the past decade, and the emergence of a pandemic H1N1 swine-origin virus in 2009, underscore the need to better understand how influenza viruses acquire the ability to transmit efficiently. In this review, we discuss the biological constraints and molecular features known to affect virus transmissibility to and among humans. Factors influencing the behaviour of aerosols in the environment are described, and the mammalian models used to study virus transmission are presented. Recent progress in understanding the molecular determinants that confer efficient transmission has identified crucial roles for the haemagglutinin and polymerase proteins; nevertheless, influenza virus transmission remains a polygenic trait that is not completely understood. The clinical implications of this research, including methods currently under investigation to mitigate influenza virus human-to-human transmission, are discussed. A better understanding of the viral determinants necessary for efficient transmission will allow us to identify avian influenza viruses with pandemic potential.
The 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza virus represents the greatest incidence of human infection with an influenza virus of swine origin to date. Moreover, triple-reassortant swine (TRS) H1N1 viruses, which share similar host and lineage origins with 2009 H1N1 viruses, have been responsible for sporadic human cases since 2005. Similar to 2009 H1N1 viruses, TRS viruses are capable of causing severe disease in previously healthy individuals and frequently manifest with gastrointestinal symptoms; however, their ability to cause severe disease has not been extensively studied. Here, we evaluated the pathogenicity and transmissibility of two TRS viruses associated with disease in humans in the ferret model. TRS and 2009 H1N1 viruses exhibited comparable viral titers and histopathologies following virus infection and were similarly unable to transmit efficiently via respiratory droplets in the ferret model. Utilizing TRS and 2009 H1N1 viruses, we conducted extensive hematologic and blood serum analyses on infected ferrets to identify lymphohematopoietic parameters associated with mild to severe influenza virus infection. Following H1N1 or H5N1 influenza virus infection, ferrets were found to recapitulate several laboratory abnormalities previously documented with human disease, furthering the utility of the ferret model for the assessment of influenza virus pathogenicity.
The pandemic H1N1 virus of 2009 (2009 H1N1) produced a spectrum of disease ranging from mild illness to severe illness and death. Respiratory symptoms were frequently associated with virus infection, with relatively high rate of gastrointestinal symptoms reported. To better understand 2009 H1N1 virus pathogenesis in humans, we studied virus and host responses following infection of two cell types: polarized bronchial and pharyngeal epithelial cells, which exhibit many features of the human airway epithelium, and colon epithelial cells to serve as a human intestinal cell model. Selected 2009 H1N1 viruses were compared to both seasonal H1N1 and triple-reassortant swine H1N1 influenza viruses that have circulated among North American pigs since before the 2009 pandemic. All H1N1 viruses replicated productively in airway cells; however, in contrast to seasonal H1N1 virus infection, infection with the 2009 H1N1 and triple-reassortant swine H1N1 viruses resulted in an attenuated inflammatory response, a weaker interferon response, and reduced cell death. Additionally, the H1N1 viruses of swine origin replicated less efficiently at the temperature of the human proximal airways (33°C). We also observed that the 2009 H1N1 viruses replicated to significantly higher titers than seasonal H1N1 virus in polarized colon epithelial cells. These studies reveal that in comparison to seasonal influenza virus, H1N1 viruses of swine origin poorly activate multiple aspects of the human innate response, which may contribute to the virulence of these viruses. In addition, their less efficient replication at human upper airway temperatures has implications for the understanding of pandemic H1N1 virus adaptation to humans.
The influenza pandemic of 1918 to 1919 was one of the worst global pandemics in recent history. The highly pathogenic nature of the 1918 virus is thought to be mediated in part by a dysregulation of the host response, including an exacerbated proinflammatory cytokine response. In the present study, we compared the host transcriptional response to infection with the reconstructed 1918 virus in wild-type, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor-1 knockout (TNFRKO), and interleukin-1 (IL-1) receptor-1 knockout (IL1RKO) mice as a means of further understanding the role of proinflammatory cytokine signaling during the acute response to infection. Despite reported redundancy in the functions of IL-1? and TNF-?, we observed that reducing the signaling capacity of each of these molecules by genetic disruption of their key receptor genes had very different effects on the host response to infection. In TNFRKO mice, we found delayed or decreased expression of genes associated with antiviral and innate immune signaling, complement, coagulation, and negative acute-phase response. In contrast, in IL1RKO mice numerous genes were differentially expressed at 1 day postinoculation, including an increase in the expression of genes that contribute to dendritic and natural killer cell processes and cellular movement, and gene expression profiles remained relatively constant at later time points. We also observed a compensatory increase in TNF-? expression in virus-infected IL1RKO mice. Our data suggest that signaling through the IL-1 receptor is protective, whereas signaling through the TNF-? receptor increases the severity of 1918 virus infection. These findings suggest that manipulation of these pathways may have therapeutic benefit.
In May 2009, as the H1N1 swine flu outbreak was in the early stages, a conference was held at the New York Academy of Sciences to discuss what was known about the virus and what was being done to stop the outbreak. In May 2010, a follow-up conference was again held at the New York Academy of Sciences, but now to discuss the H1N1 outbreak retrospectively. The report presented here summarizes the 2010 conference proceedings.
The host proteome response and molecular mechanisms that drive disease in vivo during infection by a human isolate of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAI) and 1918 pandemic influenza virus remain poorly understood. This study presents a comprehensive characterization of the proteome response in cynomolgus macaque (Macaca fascicularis) lung tissue over 7 days of infection with HPAI (the most virulent), a reassortant virus containing 1918 hemagglutinin and neuraminidase surface proteins (intermediate virulence), or a human seasonal strain (least virulent). A high-sensitivity two-dimensional liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectroscopy strategy and functional network analysis were implemented to gain insight into response pathways activated in macaques during influenza virus infection. A macaque protein database was assembled and used in the identification of 35,239 unique peptide sequences corresponding to approximately 4,259 proteins. Quantitative analysis identified an increase in expression of 400 proteins during viral infection. The abundance levels of a subset of these 400 proteins produced strong correlations with disease progression observed in the macaques, distinguishing a "core" response to viral infection from a "high" response specific to severe disease. Proteome expression profiles revealed distinct temporal response kinetics between viral strains, with HPAI inducing the most rapid response. While proteins involved in the immune response, metabolism, and transport were increased rapidly in the lung by HPAI, the other viruses produced a delayed response, characterized by an increase in proteins involved in oxidative phosphorylation, RNA processing, and translation. Proteomic results were integrated with previous genomic and pathological analysis to characterize the dynamic nature of the influenza virus infection process.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5N1 subtype continue to cross the species barrier to infect humans and cause severe disease. It has been suggested that an exaggerated immune response contributes to the pathogenesis of H5N1 virus infection in mammals. In particular, H5N1 virus infections are associated with a high expression of the proinflammatory cytokines, including interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-?).
The rapid dissemination of the 2009 pandemic influenza virus underscores the need for universal influenza vaccines that elicit protective immunity to diverse viral strains. Here, we show that vaccination with plasmid DNA encoding H1N1 influenza hemagglutinin (HA) and boosting with seasonal vaccine or replication-defective adenovirus 5 vector encoding HA stimulated the production of broadly neutralizing influenza antibodies. This prime/boost combination increased the neutralization of diverse H1N1 strains dating from 1934 to 2007 as compared to either component alone and conferred protection against divergent H1N1 viruses in mice and ferrets. These antibodies were directed to the conserved stem region of HA and were also elicited in nonhuman primates. Cross-neutralization of H1N1 subtypes elicited by this approach provides a basis for the development of a universal influenza vaccine for humans.
The sudden emergence of novel influenza viruses is a global public health concern. Conventional influenza vaccines targeting the highly variable surface glycoproteins hemagglutinin and neuraminidase must antigenically match the emerging strain to be effective. In contrast, "universal" vaccines targeting conserved viral components could be used regardless of viral strain or subtype. Previous approaches to universal vaccination have required protracted multi-dose immunizations. Here we evaluate a single dose universal vaccine strategy using recombinant adenoviruses (rAd) expressing the conserved influenza virus antigens matrix 2 and nucleoprotein.
Although vaccines against influenza A virus are the most effective method to combat infection, it is clear that their production needs to be accelerated and their efficacy improved. We generated live attenuated human influenza A vaccines (LAIVs) by rationally engineering mutations directly into the genome of a pandemic-H1N1 virus. Two LAIVs (NS1-73 and NS1-126) were based on the success of LAIVs for animal influenza A viruses. A third candidate (NS?5) is a unique NS-mutant that has never been used as a LAIV. The vaccine potential of each LAIV was determined through analysis of attenuation, interferon production, immunogenicity, and their ability to protect mice and ferrets. This study demonstrates that NS?5 is an ideal LAIV candidate, provides important information on the effects that different NS mutations have on the pandemic-H1N1 virus and shows that LAIVs can be engineered directly from the genomes of emerging/circulating influenza A viruses.
Periodic outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses and the current H1N1 pandemic highlight the need for a more detailed understanding of influenza virus pathogenesis. To investigate the host transcriptional response induced by pathogenic influenza viruses, we used a functional-genomics approach to compare gene expression profiles in lungs from 129S6/SvEv mice infected with either the fully reconstructed H1N1 1918 pandemic virus (1918) or the highly pathogenic avian H5N1 virus Vietnam/1203/04 (VN/1203). Although the viruses reached similar titers in the lung and caused lethal infections, the mean time of death was 6 days for VN/1203-infected animals and 9 days for mice infected with the 1918 virus. VN/1203-infected animals also exhibited an earlier and more potent inflammatory response. This response included induction of genes encoding components of the inflammasome. VN/1203 was also able to disseminate to multiple organs, including the brain, which correlated with changes in the expression of genes associated with hematological functions and lipoxin biogenesis and signaling. Both viruses elicited expression of type I interferon (IFN)-regulated genes in wild-type mice and to a lesser extent in mice lacking the type I IFN receptor, suggesting alternative or redundant pathways for IFN signaling. Our findings suggest that VN/1203 is more pathogenic in mice as a consequence of several factors, including the early and sustained induction of the inflammatory response, the additive or synergistic effects of upregulated components of the immune response, and inhibition of lipoxin-mediated anti-inflammatory responses, which correlated with the ability of VN/1203 to disseminate to extrapulmonary organs.
The H2N2 subtype of influenza A virus was responsible for the Asian pandemic of 1957-58. However, unlike other subtypes that have caused pandemics such as H1N1 and H3N2, which continue to circulate among humans, H2N2 stopped circulating in the human population in 1968. Strains of H2 subtype still continue to circulate in birds and occasionally pigs and could be reintroduced into the human population through antigenic drift or shift. Such an event is a potential global health concern because of the waning population immunity to H2 hemagglutinin (HA). The first step in such a cross-species transmission and human adaptation of influenza A virus is the ability for its surface glycoprotein HA to bind to glycan receptors expressed in the human upper respiratory epithelia. Recent structural and biochemical studies have focused on understanding the glycan receptor binding specificity of the 1957-58 pandemic H2N2 HA. However, there has been considerable HA sequence divergence in the recent avian-adapted H2 strains from the pandemic H2N2 strain. Using a combination of structural modeling, quantitative glycan binding and human respiratory tissue binding methods, we systematically identify mutations in the HA from a recent avian-adapted H2N2 strain (A/Chicken/PA/2004) that make its quantitative glycan receptor binding affinity (defined using an apparent binding constant) comparable to that of a prototypic pandemic H2N2 (A/Albany/6/58) HA.
Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-?), a multifunctional cytokine regulating several immunologic processes, is expressed by virtually all cells as a biologically inactive molecule termed latent TGF-? (LTGF-?). We have previously shown that TGF-? activity increases during influenza virus infection in mice and suggested that the neuraminidase (NA) protein mediates this activation. In the current study, we determined the mechanism of activation of LTGF-? by NA from the influenza virus A/Gray Teal/Australia/2/1979 by mobility shift and enzyme inhibition assays. We also investigated whether exogenous TGF-? administered via a replication-deficient adenovirus vector provides protection from H5N1 influenza pathogenesis and whether depletion of TGF-? during virus infection increases morbidity in mice. We found that both the influenza and bacterial NA activate LTGF-? by removing sialic acid motifs from LTGF-?, each NA being specific for the sialic acid linkages cleaved. Further, NA likely activates LTGF-? primarily via its enzymatic activity, but proteases might also play a role in this process. Several influenza A virus subtypes (H1N1, H1N2, H3N2, H5N9, H6N1, and H7N3) except the highly pathogenic H5N1 strains activated LTGF-? in vitro and in vivo. Addition of exogenous TGF-? to H5N1 influenza virus-infected mice delayed mortality and reduced viral titers whereas neutralization of TGF-? during H5N1 and pandemic 2009 H1N1 infection increased morbidity. Together, these data show that microbe-associated NAs can directly activate LTGF-? and that TGF-? plays a pivotal role protecting the host from influenza pathogenesis.
New strains of H1N1 influenza virus have emerged episodically over the last century to cause human pandemics, notably in 1918 and recently in 2009. Pandemic viruses typically evolve into seasonal forms that develop resistance to antibody neutralization, and cross-protection between strains separated by more than 3 years is uncommon. Here, we define the structural basis for cross-neutralization between two temporally distant pandemic influenza viruses--from 1918 and 2009. Vaccination of mice with the 1918 strain protected against subsequent lethal infection by 2009 virus. Both were resistant to antibodies directed against a seasonal influenza, A/New Caledonia/20/1999 (1999 NC), which was insensitive to antisera to the pandemic strains. Pandemic strain-neutralizing antibodies were directed against a subregion of the hemagglutinin (HA) receptor binding domain that is highly conserved between the 1918 and the 2009 viruses. In seasonal strains, this region undergoes amino acid diversification but is shielded from antibody neutralization by two highly conserved glycosylation sites absent in the pandemic strains. Pandemic HA trimers modified by glycosylation at these positions were resistant to neutralizing antibodies to wild-type HA. Yet, antisera generated against the glycosylated HA mutant neutralized it, suggesting that the focus of the immune response can be selectively changed with this modification. Collectively, these findings define critical determinants of H1N1 viral evolution and have implications for vaccine design. Immunization directed to conserved receptor binding domain subregions of pandemic viruses could potentially protect against similar future pandemic viruses, and vaccination with glycosylated 2009 pandemic virus may limit its further spread and transformation into a seasonal influenza.
Effects of the commercial drug zanamivir (Relenza) covalently attached to poly-l-glutamine on the infectivity of influenza A viruses are examined using the plaque reduction assay and binding affinity to viral neuraminidase (NA). These multivalent drug conjugates exhibit (i) up to a 20,000-fold improvement in anti-influenza potency compared with the zanamivir parent against human and avian viral strains, including both wild-type and drug-resistant mutants, and (ii) superior neuraminidase (NA) inhibition constants, especially for the mutants. These findings provide a basis for exploring polymer-attached inhibitors as more efficacious therapeutics, particularly against drug-resistant influenza strains.
Emergence of drug-resistant strains of influenza viruses, including avian H5N1 with pandemic potential, 1918 and 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic viruses to currently used antiviral agents, neuraminidase inhibitors and M2 Ion channel blockers, underscores the importance of developing novel antiviral strategies. Activation of innate immune pathogen sensor Retinoic Acid Inducible Gene-I (RIG-I) has recently been shown to induce antiviral state.
Pandemic influenza poses a serious threat to global health and the world economy. While vaccines are currently under development, passive immunization could offer an alternative strategy to prevent and treat influenza virus infection. Attempts to develop monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have been made. However, passive immunization based on mAbs may require a cocktail of mAbs with broader specificity in order to provide full protection since mAbs are generally specific for single epitopes. Chicken immunoglobulins (IgY) found in egg yolk have been used mainly for treatment of infectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Because the recent epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) strain H5N1 has resulted in serious economic losses to the poultry industry, many countries including Vietnam have introduced mass vaccination of poultry with H5N1 virus vaccines. We reasoned that IgY from consumable eggs available in supermarkets in Vietnam could provide protection against infections with HPAIV H5N1.
Efforts to develop a broadly protective vaccine against the highly pathogenic avian influenza A (HPAI) H5N1 virus have focused on highly conserved influenza gene products. The viral nucleoprotein (NP) and ion channel matrix protein (M2) are highly conserved among different strains and various influenza A subtypes. Here, we investigate the relative efficacy of NP and M2 compared to HA in protecting against HPAI H5N1 virus. In mice, previous studies have shown that vaccination with NP and M2 in recombinant DNA and/or adenovirus vectors or with adjuvants confers protection against lethal challenge in the absence of HA. However, we find that the protective efficacy of NP and M2 diminishes as the virulence and dose of the challenge virus are increased. To explore this question in a model relevant to human disease, ferrets were immunized with DNA/rAd5 vaccines encoding NP, M2, HA, NP+M2 or HA+NP+M2. Only HA or HA+NP+M2 vaccination conferred protection against a stringent virus challenge. Therefore, while gene-based vaccination with NP and M2 may provide moderate levels of protection against low challenge doses, it is insufficient to confer protective immunity against high challenge doses of H5N1 in ferrets. These immunogens may require combinatorial vaccination with HA, which confers protection even against very high doses of lethal viral challenge.
The pandemic H1N1 virus of 2009 (2009 H1N1) continues to cause illness worldwide, primarily in younger age groups. To better understand the pathogenesis of these viruses in mammals, we used a mouse model to evaluate the relative virulence of selected 2009 H1N1 viruses and compared them to a representative human triple-reassortant swine influenza virus that has circulated in pigs in the United States for over a decade preceding the current pandemic. Additional comparisons were made with the reconstructed 1918 virus, a 1976 H1N1 swine influenza virus, and a highly pathogenic H5N1 virus. Mice were inoculated intranasally with each virus and monitored for morbidity, mortality, viral replication, hemostatic parameters, cytokine production, and lung histology. All 2009 H1N1 viruses replicated efficiently in the lungs of mice and possessed a high degree of infectivity but did not cause lethal disease or exhibit extrapulmonary virus spread. Transient weight loss, lymphopenia, and proinflammatory cytokine and chemokine production were present following 2009 H1N1 virus infection, but these levels were generally muted compared with a triple-reassortant swine virus and the 1918 virus. 2009 H1N1 viruses isolated from fatal cases did not demonstrate enhanced virulence in this model compared with isolates from mild human cases. Histologically, infection with the 2009 viruses resulted in lesions in the lung varying from mild to moderate bronchiolitis with occasional necrosis of bronchiolar epithelium and mild to moderate peribronchiolar alveolitis. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that the 2009 H1N1 viruses exhibited mild to moderate virulence in mice compared with highly pathogenic viruses.
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