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1.  Critical Role of Constitutive Type I Interferon Response in Bronchial Epithelial Cell to Influenza Infection 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32947.
Innate antiviral responses in bronchial epithelial cells (BECs) provide the first line of defense against respiratory viral infection and the effectiveness of this response is critically dependent on the type I interferons (IFNs). However the importance of the antiviral responses in BECs during influenza infection is not well understood. We profiled the innate immune response to infection with H3N2 and H5N1 virus using Calu-3 cells and primary BECs to model proximal airway cells. The susceptibility of BECs to influenza infection was not solely dependent on the sialic acid-bearing glycoprotein, and antiviral responses that occurred after viral endocytosis was more important in limiting viral replication. The early antiviral response and apoptosis correlated with the ability to limit viral replication. Both viruses reduced RIG-I associated antiviral responses and subsequent induction of IFN-β. However it was found that there was constitutive release of IFN-β by BECs and this was critical in inducing late antiviral signaling via type I IFN receptors, and was crucial in limiting viral infection. This study characterizes anti-influenza virus responses in airway epithelial cells and shows that constitutive IFN-β release plays a more important role in initiating protective late IFN-stimulated responses during human influenza infection in bronchial epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3292582  PMID: 22396801
2.  Epigenetic Silencing of IRF7 and/or IRF5 in Lung Cancer Cells Leads to Increased Sensitivity to Oncolytic Viruses 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28683.
Defective IFN signaling results in loss of innate immunity and sensitizes cells to enhanced cytolytic killing after Vesticular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) infection. Examination of the innate immunity status of normal human bronchial epithelial cells Beas2B and 7 lung cancer cells revealed that the abrogation of IFN signaling in cancer cells is associated with greater sensitivity to VSV infection. The disruption of the IFN pathway in lung cancer cell lines and primary tumor tissues is caused by epigenetic silencing of critical interferon responsive transcription factors IRF7 and/or IRF5. Although 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine treatment fails to reactivate IRF7 and IRF5 expression or protect cells from VSV infection, manipulating IFN signaling by altering IRF expression changes the viral susceptibility of these cells. Lung cancer cells can be partially protected from viral killing using IRF5+IRF7 overexpression, whereas IFN pathway disruption by transfection of siRNAs to IRF5+IRF7 increases cells' vulnerability to viral infection. Therefore, IRF5 and IRF7 are key transcription factors in IFN pathway that determine viral sensitivity of lung cancer cells; the epigenetically impaired IFN pathway in lung cancer tissues provides potential biomarkers for successful selective killing of cancer cells by oncolytic viral therapy.
PMCID: PMC3237484  PMID: 22194884
3.  The Chemotherapeutic Agent DMXAA as a Unique IRF3-Dependent Type-2 Vaccine Adjuvant 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60038.
5,6-Dimethylxanthenone-4-acetic acid (DMXAA), a potent type I interferon (IFN) inducer, was evaluated as a chemotherapeutic agent in mouse cancer models and proved to be well tolerated in human cancer clinical trials. Despite its multiple biological functions, DMXAA has not been fully characterized for the potential application as a vaccine adjuvant. In this report, we show that DMXAA does act as an adjuvant due to its unique property as a soluble innate immune activator. Using OVA as a model antigen, DMXAA was demonstrated to improve on the antigen specific immune responses and induce a preferential Th2 (Type-2) response. The adjuvant effect was directly dependent on the IRF3-mediated production of type-I-interferon, but not IL-33. DMXAA could also enhance the immunogenicity of influenza split vaccine which led to significant increase in protective responses against live influenza virus challenge in mice compared to split vaccine alone. We propose that DMXAA can be used as an adjuvant that targets a specific innate immune signaling pathway via IRF3 for potential applications including vaccines against influenza which requires a high safety profile.
PMCID: PMC3605442  PMID: 23555875
4.  Influenza enhances caspase-1 in bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics and is associated with pathogenesis 
The leading cause of asthma exacerbation is respiratory viral infection. Innate antiviral defense pathways are altered in the asthmatic epithelium, yet involvement of inflammasome signaling in virus-induced asthma exacerbation is not known.
To compare influenza-induced activation of inflammasome and innate immune signaling in human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics and non-asthmatics and investigate the role of caspase-1 in epithelial cell antiviral defense.
Differentiated primary human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics and non-asthmatics were infected with influenza A virus. An inflammasome-specific quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction array was used to compare baseline and influenza-induced gene expression profiles. Cytokine secretion, innate immune gene expression, and viral replication were compared between human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics and non-asthmatics. Immunofluorescence microscopy was used to evaluate caspase-1 and PYCARD co-localization. Tracheal epithelial cells from caspase-1 deficient or wildtype mice were infected with influenza and assessed for antiviral gene expression and viral replication.
Human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics had altered influenza-induced expression of inflammasome-related and innate immune signaling components, which correlated with enhanced production of interlukin-1β, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-α. Specifically, influenza-induced caspase-1 expression was enhanced and localization differed in human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics compared to non-asthmatics. Influenza-infected tracheal epithelial cells from caspase-1 deficient mice had reduced expression of antiviral genes and viral replication.
Caspase-1 plays an important role in the airway epithelial cell response to influenza infection, which is enhanced in asthmatics and may contribute to the enhanced influenza related pathogenesis observed in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3470476  PMID: 23021143
epithelial cell; asthma; influenza; antiviral; inflammasome; caspase-1; innate immunity
5.  Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus Inhibits Type I Interferon Signaling by Blocking STAT1/STAT2 Nuclear Translocation ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(21):11045-11055.
Type I interferons (IFNs) IFN-α/β play an important role in innate immunity against viral infections by inducing antiviral responses. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) inhibits the synthesis of type I IFNs. However, whether PRRSV can inhibit IFN signaling is less well understood. In the present study, we found that PRRSV interferes with the IFN signaling pathway. The transcript levels of IFN-stimulated genes ISG15 and ISG56 and protein level of signal transducer and activator of transcription 2 (STAT2) in PRRSV VR2385-infected MARC-145 cells were significantly lower than those in mock-infected cells after IFN-α treatment. IFN-induced phosphorylation of both STAT1 and STAT2 and their heterodimer formation in the PRRSV-infected cells were not affected. However, the majority of the STAT1/STAT2/IRF9 (IFN regulatory factor 9) heterotrimers remained in the cytoplasm of PRRSV-infected cells, which indicates that the nuclear translocation of the heterotrimers was blocked. Overexpression of NSP1β of PRRSV VR2385 inhibited expression of ISG15 and ISG56 and blocked nuclear translocation of STAT1, which suggests that NSP1β might be the viral protein responsible for the inhibition of IFN signaling. PRRSV infection in primary porcine pulmonary alveolar macrophages (PAMs) also inhibited IFN-α-stimulated expression of the ISGs and the STAT2 protein. In contrast, a licensed low-virulence vaccine strain, Ingelvac PRRS modified live virus (MLV), activated expression of IFN-inducible genes, including those of chemokines and antiviral proteins, in PAMs without the addition of external IFN and had no detectable effect on IFN signaling. These findings suggest that PRRSV interferes with the activation and signaling pathway of type I IFNs by blocking ISG factor 3 (ISGF3) nuclear translocation.
PMCID: PMC2953160  PMID: 20739522
6.  Sendai Virus Infection Induces Efficient Adaptive Immunity Independently of Type I Interferons 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(9):4538-4545.
Adaptive immunity in response to virus infection involves the generation of Th1 cells, cytotoxic T cells, and antibodies. This type of immune response is crucial for the clearance of virus infection and for long-term protection against reinfection. Type I interferons (IFNs), the primary innate cytokines that control virus growth and spreading, can influence various aspects of adaptive immunity. The development of antiviral immunity depends on many viral and cellular factors, and the extent to which type I IFNs contribute to the generation of adaptive immunity in response to a viral infection is controversial. Using two strains (Cantell and 52) of the murine respiratory Sendai virus (SeV) with differential abilities to induce type I IFN production from infected cells, together with type I IFN receptor-deficient mice, we examined the role of type I IFNs in the generation of adaptive immunity. Our results show that type I IFNs facilitate virus clearance and enhance the migration and maturation of dendritic cells after SeV infection in vivo; however, soon after infection, mice clear the virus from their lungs and efficiently generate cytotoxic T cells independently of type I IFN signaling. Furthermore, animals that are unresponsive to type I IFN develop long-term anti-SeV immunity, including CD8+ T cells and antibodies. Significantly, this memory response is able to protect mice against challenge with a lethal dose of virus. In conclusion, our results show that primary and secondary anti-SeV adaptive immunities are developed normally in the absence of type I IFN responsiveness.
PMCID: PMC1472017  PMID: 16611914
7.  The Role of Alpha/Beta and Gamma Interferons in Development of Immunity to Influenza A Virus in Mice 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(9):3996-4003.
During influenza virus infection innate and adaptive immune defenses are activated to eliminate the virus and thereby bring about recovery from illness. Both arms of the adaptive immune system, antibody neutralization of free virus and termination of intracellular virus replication by antiviral cytotoxic T cells (CTLs), play pivotal roles in virus elimination and protection from disease. Innate cytokine responses, such as alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β) or IFN-γ, can have roles in determining the rate of virus replication in the initial stages of infection and in shaping the initial inflammatory and downstream adaptive immune responses. The effect of these cytokines on the replication of pneumotropic influenza A virus in the respiratory tract and in the regulation of adaptive antiviral immunity was examined after intranasal infection of mice with null mutations in receptors for IFN-α/β, IFN-γ, and both IFNs. Virus titers in the lungs of mice unable to respond to IFNs were not significantly different from congenic controls for both primary and secondary infection. Likewise the mice were comparably susceptible to X31 (H3N2) influenza virus infection. No significant disruption to the development of normal antiviral CTL or antibody responses was observed. In contrast, mice bearing the disrupted IFN-α/β receptor exhibited accelerated kinetics and significantly higher levels of neutralizing antibody activity during primary or secondary heterosubtypic influenza virus infection. Thus, these observations reveal no significant contribution for IFN-controlled pathways in shaping acute or memory T-cell responses to pneumotropic influenza virus infection but do indicate some role for IFN-α/β in the regulation of antibody responses. Recognizing the pivotal role of CTLs and antibody in virus clearance, it is reasonable to assume a redundancy in IFN-mediated antiviral effects in pulmonary influenza. However, IFN-α/β seems to be a valid factor in determining tissue tropism and replicative rates of highly virulent influenza virus strains as reported previously by others, and this aspect is discussed here.
PMCID: PMC111913  PMID: 10756011
8.  Lambda Interferon Renders Epithelial Cells of the Respiratory and Gastrointestinal Tracts Resistant to Viral Infections▿ † 
Journal of Virology  2010;84(11):5670-5677.
Virus-infected cells secrete a broad range of interferons (IFN) which confer resistance to yet uninfected cells by triggering the synthesis of antiviral factors. The relative contributions of the various IFN subtypes to innate immunity against virus infections remain elusive. IFN-α, IFN-β, and other type I IFN molecules signal through a common, universally expressed cell surface receptor, whereas type III IFN (IFN-λ) uses a distinct cell-type-specific receptor complex for signaling. Using mice lacking functional receptors for type I IFN, type III IFN, or both, we found that IFN-λ plays an important role in the defense against several human pathogens that infect the respiratory tract, such as influenza A virus, influenza B virus, respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus. These viruses were more pathogenic and replicated to higher titers in the lungs of mice lacking both IFN receptors than in mice with single IFN receptor defects. In contrast, Lassa fever virus, which infects via the respiratory tract but primarily replicates in the liver, was not influenced by the IFN-λ receptor defect. Careful analysis revealed that expression of functional IFN-λ receptor complexes in the lung and intestinal tract is restricted to epithelial cells and a few other, undefined cell types. Interestingly, we found that SARS coronavirus was present in feces from infected mice lacking receptors for both type I and type III IFN but not in those from mice lacking single receptors, supporting the view that IFN-λ contributes to the control of viral infections in epithelial cells of both respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.
PMCID: PMC2876583  PMID: 20335250
9.  Defective Viral Genomes Arising In Vivo Provide Critical Danger Signals for the Triggering of Lung Antiviral Immunity 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003703.
The innate immune response to viruses is initiated when specialized cellular sensors recognize viral danger signals. Here we show that truncated forms of viral genomes that accumulate in infected cells potently trigger the sustained activation of the transcription factors IRF3 and NF-κB and the production type I IFNs through a mechanism independent of IFN signaling. We demonstrate that these defective viral genomes (DVGs) are generated naturally during respiratory infections in vivo even in mice lacking the type I IFN receptor, and their appearance coincides with the production of cytokines during infections with Sendai virus (SeV) or influenza virus. Remarkably, the hallmark antiviral cytokine IFNβ is only expressed in lung epithelial cells containing DVGs, while cells within the lung that contain standard viral genomes alone do not express this cytokine. Together, our data indicate that DVGs generated during viral replication are a primary source of danger signals for the initiation of the host immune response to infection.
Author Summary
In infections with viruses well adapted to the host virus-encoded proteins that delay the cellular response allow the virus to replicate to high titers prior to host intervention. The mechanisms overcoming viral evasion of the immune system and leading to the production of the primary antiviral cytokine IFNβ are not well established. Here, we demonstrate that truncated forms of viral genomes that are generated in situ during virus replication are a primary source of danger signals for the initiation of the host immune response to respiratory viral infections in vivo. Defective viral genomes (DVGs) are able to function as triggers of the immune response even in the absence of type I IFN signaling and are strong triggers of the host response to infection while overcoming viral antagonism.
PMCID: PMC3814336  PMID: 24204261
10.  Chicken interferon alpha pretreatment reduces virus replication of pandemic H1N1 and H5N9 avian influenza viruses in lung cell cultures from different avian species 
Virology Journal  2011;8:447.
Type I interferons, including interferon alpha (IFN-α), represent one of the first lines of innate immune defense against influenza virus infection. Following natural infection of chickens with avian influenza virus (AIV), transcription of IFN-α is quickly up regulated along with multiple other immune-related genes. Chicken IFN-α up regulates a number of important anti-viral response genes and has been demonstrated to be an important cytokine to establish anti-viral immunity. However, the mechanisms by which interferon inhibit virus replication in avian species remains unknown as does the biological activity of chicken interferon in other avian species.
In these studies, we assessed the protective potential of exogenous chicken IFN-α applied to chicken, duck, and turkey primary lung cell cultures prior to infection with the pandemic H1N1 virus (A/turkey/Virginia/SEP-4/2009) and an established avian H5N9 virus (A/turkey/Wisconsin/1968). Growth kinetics and induction of select immune response genes, including IFN-α and myxovirus-resistance gene I (Mx), as well as proinflammatory cytokines (IL-1β and IL-6), were measured in response to chicken IFN-α and viral infection over time.
Results demonstrate that pretreatment with chicken IFN-α before AIV infection significantly reduced virus replication in both chicken-and turkey-origin lung cells and to a lesser degree the duck-origin cells. Virus growth was reduced by approximately 200-fold in chicken and turkey cells and 30-fold in duck cells after 48 hours of incubation. Interferon treatment also significantly decreased the interferon and proinflammatory response during viral infection. In general, infection with the H1N1 virus resulted in an attenuated interferon and proinflammatory response in these cell lines, compared to the H5N9 virus.
Taken together, these studies show that chicken IFN-α reduces virus replication, lower host innate immune response following infection, and is biologically active in other avian species.
PMCID: PMC3197513  PMID: 21939525
avian influenza; interferon; chicken; duck; turkey
11.  Regulation of STAT signaling in mouse bone marrow derived dendritic cells by respiratory syncytial virus 
Virus research  2011;156(0):127-133.
Dendritic cells (DCs) act as a portal for virus invasion as well as potent antigen-presenting cells (APCs) involved in the antiviral host response. Interferons (IFNs) are produced in response to bacterial and viral infection and activate innate immune responses to efficiently counteract and remove pathogenic invaders. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) could inhibit IFN-mediated signaling pathway in epithelial cells; however, the effects of RSV on IFN signaling in the dendritic cells (DCs) are still unknown.
Mouse bone marrow derived DCs (BMDCs) were mock or infected with RSV at different multiplicity of infection (MOI) for 24 h, and then treated with different cytokines such as interferon-β (IFN-β), IFN-γ or interleukin-10 (IL-10). The mRNA expression of RSV nonstructural protein-1 (NS-1) and NS-2 was detected by RT-PCR. The expression of Janus family kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT) signaling proteins was assessed by immunoblotting assays. The nuclear localization of specific signaling proteins was determined by immunofluorescence assay.
Increasing amounts of NS-1 or NS-2 mRNA expression in BMDCs were observed with infected RSV at increasing MOI, suggesting BMDCs were permissive for viral gene expression. Further examination of the IFN-β signaling cascade showed RSV infection increased the total cellular levels of STAT1 and STAT2 in BMDCs, but impaired the IFN-β-dependent phosphorylation and nuclear localization of STAT1 and STAT2. The inhibitory effects of RSV on STAT1 and STAT2 phosphorylation and translocation were abolished by UV inactivation. In contrast, RSV did not inhibit the IFN-γ-stimulated STAT1 phosphorylation and nuclear localization. IL-10-stimulated STAT3 phosphorylation was also unaffected by RSV.
As well as RSV inhibiting STAT protein levels through degradation mechanisms in epithelial cells, these findings demonstrate that RSV also can specifically inhibit the type I interferon response in BMDCs through regulation of STAT1 and STAT2 phosphorylation and nuclear translocation.
PMCID: PMC3726278  PMID: 21255624
Bone marrow derived dendritic cells; Respiratory syncytial virus; Type I interferon; STAT; Signal pathway
12.  Poly (I:C), an agonist of toll-like receptor-3, inhibits replication of the Chikungunya virus in BEAS-2B cells 
Virology Journal  2012;9:114.
Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and its mimic, polyinosinic acid: polycytidylic acid [Poly (I:C)], are recognized by toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) and induce interferon (IFN)-β in many cell types. Poly (I:C) is the most potent IFN inducer. In in vivo mouse studies, intraperitoneal injection of Poly (I:C) elicited IFN-α/β production and natural killer (NK) cells activation. The TLR3 pathway is suggested to contribute to innate immune responses against many viruses, including influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, herpes simplex virus 2, and murine cytomegalovirus. In Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection, the viruses are cleared within 7–10 days postinfection before adaptive immune responses emerge. The innate immune response is important for CHIKV clearance.
The effects of Poly (I:C) on the replication of CHIKV in human bronchial epithelial cells, BEAS-2B, were studied. Poly (I:C) suppressed cytopathic effects (CPE) induced by CHIKV infection in BEAS-2B cells in the presence of Poly (I:C) and inhibited the replication of CHIKV in the cells. The virus titers of Poly (I:C)-treated cells were much lower compared with those of untreated cells. CHIKV infection and Poly (I:C) treatment of BEAS-2B cells induced the production of IFN-β and increased the expression of anti-viral genes, including IFN-α, IFN-β, MxA, and OAS. Both Poly (I:C) and CHIKV infection upregulate the expression of TLR3 in BEAS-2B cells.
CHIKV is sensitive to innate immune response induced by Poly (I:C). The inhibition of CHIKV replication by Poly (I:C) may be through the induction of TLR3, which triggers the production of IFNs and other anti-viral genes. The innate immune response is important to clear CHIKV in infected cells.
PMCID: PMC3490739  PMID: 22698190
Chikungunya virus; Poly (I:C); BEAS-2B cells; TLR3
13.  Identification of IFN-γ-producing innate B cells 
Cell Research  2013;24(2):161-176.
Although B cells play important roles in the humoral immune response and the regulation of adaptive immunity, B cell subpopulations with unique phenotypes, particularly those with non-classical immune functions, should be further investigated. By challenging mice with Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, vesicular stomatitis virus and Toll-like receptor ligands, we identified an inducible CD11ahiFcγRIIIhi B cell subpopulation that is significantly expanded and produces high levels of IFN-γ during the early stage of the immune response. This subpopulation of B cells can promote macrophage activation via generating IFN-γ, thereby facilitating the innate immune response against intracellular bacterial infection. As this new subpopulation is of B cell origin and exhibits the phenotypic characteristics of B cells, we designated these cells as IFN-γ-producing innate B cells. Dendritic cells were essential for the inducible generation of these innate B cells from the follicular B cells via CD40L-CD40 ligation. Increased Bruton's tyrosine kinase activation was found to be responsible for the increased activation of non-canonical NF-κB pathway in these innate B cells after CD40 ligation, with the consequent induction of additional IFN-γ production. The identification of this new population of innate B cells may contribute to a better understanding of B cell functions in anti-infection immune responses and immune regulation.
PMCID: PMC3915900  PMID: 24296781
B cells; IFN-γ; innate response; dendritic cells; CD40
14.  Interferon Regulatory Factor-1 Protects from Fatal Neurotropic Infection with Vesicular Stomatitis Virus by Specific Inhibition of Viral Replication in Neurons 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(3):e1003999.
The innate immune system protects cells against invading viral pathogens by the auto- and paracrine action of type I interferon (IFN). In addition, the interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-1 can induce alternative intrinsic antiviral responses. Although both, type I IFN and IRF-1 mediate their antiviral action by inducing overlapping subsets of IFN stimulated genes, the functional role of this alternative antiviral action of IRF-1 in context of viral infections in vivo remains unknown. Here, we report that IRF-1 is essential to counteract the neuropathology of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). IFN- and IRF-1-dependent antiviral responses act sequentially to create a layered antiviral protection program against VSV infections. Upon intranasal infection, VSV is cleared in the presence or absence of IRF-1 in peripheral organs, but IRF-1−/− mice continue to propagate the virus in the brain and succumb. Although rapid IFN induction leads to a decline in VSV titers early on, viral replication is re-enforced in the brains of IRF-1−/− mice. While IFN provides short-term protection, IRF-1 is induced with delayed kinetics and controls viral replication at later stages of infection. IRF-1 has no influence on viral entry but inhibits viral replication in neurons and viral spread through the CNS, which leads to fatal inflammatory responses in the CNS. These data support a temporal, non-redundant antiviral function of type I IFN and IRF-1, the latter playing a crucial role in late time points of VSV infection in the brain.
Author Summary
IRFs are a family of transcription factors that play a key role in viral defense. Apart from their function in the adaptive immune system, recent work revealed that several IRFs contribute to antiviral response independent of secreted IFN. IRFs have been developed earlier in evolution than IFN and are regarded as precursor of today's IFN system, acting only on an intrinsic level. IRF-1 by itself exhibits antiviral effects that are exerted by the induction of a set of genes that overlaps the set of IFN-induced genes (ISGs). Our data show that IRF-1 contributes decisively for the protection of mice from neurotropic Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a virus similar to rabies virus. Mice, deficient in IRF-1, are highly vulnerable to VSV infection and succumb with signs of encephalitis. Although type I IFN action is a prerequisite for survival from the infection, IRF-1 becomes increasingly crucial in neuronal tissue at a time point where clearance of the virus has not been achieved. The data highlight the importance of IRF-1 as an antiviral agent that acts in combination with the IFN system.
PMCID: PMC3968136  PMID: 24675692
15.  Age-associated impaired plasmacytoid dendritic cell functions lead to decreased CD4 and CD8 T cell immunity 
Age  2010;33(3):363-376.
Increased susceptibility to infections, particularly respiratory viral infections, is a hallmark of advancing age. The underlying mechanisms are not well understood, and there is a scarcity of information regarding the contribution of the innate immune system, which is the first line of defense against infections. In the present study, we have investigated the effect of advancing age on plasmacytoid dendritic cell (PDC) function because they are critical in generating a robust antiviral response via the secretion of interferons (IFN). Our results indicate that PDCs from the aged are impaired in their capacity to secrete IFN-I in response to influenza virus and CPG stimulation. Additionally, we observed a severe reduction in the production of IFN-III, which plays an important role in defense against viral infections at respiratory mucosal surfaces. This reduction in IFN-I and IFN-III were a result of age-associated impaired phosphorylation of transcription factor, IRF-7. Furthermore, aged PDCs were observed to be impaired in their capacity to induce perforin and granzyme in CD8 T cells. Comparison of the antigen-presenting capacity of aged PDC with young PDC revealed that PDCs from aged subjects display reduced capacity to induce proliferation and IFN-gamma secretion in CD4 and CD8 T cells as compared with PDCs from young subjects. In summary, our study demonstrates that advancing age has a profound effect on PDC function at multiple levels and may therefore, be responsible for the increased susceptibility to infections in the elderly.
PMCID: PMC3168606  PMID: 20953722
Plasmacytoid dendritic cells; Aging; Influenza; Type I interferons; Type III interferons; CD8 cytotoxicity; T cell proliferation
16.  The Differential Antiviral Activities of Chicken Interferon α (ChIFN-α) and ChIFN-β are Related to Distinct Interferon-Stimulated Gene Expression 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59307.
Chicken interferon α (ChIFN-α) and ChIFN-β are type I IFNs that are important antiviral cytokines in the innate immune system. In the present study, we identified the virus-induced expression of ChIFN-α and ChIFN-β in chicken fibroblast DF-1 cells and systematically evaluated the antiviral activities of recombinant ChIFN-α and ChIFN-β by cytopathic-effect (CPE) inhibition assays. We found that ChIFN-α exhibited stronger antiviral activity than ChIFN-β in terms of inhibiting the replication of vesicular stomatitis virus, Newcastle disease virus and avian influenza virus, respectively. To elucidate the mechanism of differential antiviral activities between the two ChIFNs, we measured the relative mRNA levels of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) in IFN-treated DF-1 cells by real-time PCR. ChIFN-α displayed greater induction potency than ChIFN-β on several ISGs encoding antiviral proteins and MHC-I, whereas ChIFN-α was less potent than ChIFN-β for inducing ISGs involved in signaling pathways. In conclusion, ChIFN-α and ChIFN-β presented differential induction potency on various sets of ISGs, and the stronger antiviral activity of ChIFN-α is likely attributed to the greater expression levels of downstream antiviral ISGs.
PMCID: PMC3602166  PMID: 23527158
17.  Suppression of Interferon Lambda Signaling by SOCS-1 Results in Their Excessive Production during Influenza Virus Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(1):e1003845.
Innate cytokine response provides the first line of defense against influenza virus infection. However, excessive production of cytokines appears to be critical in the pathogenesis of influenza virus. Interferon lambdas (IFN-λ) have been shown to be overproduced during influenza virus infection, but the precise pathogenic processes of IFN-λ production have yet to be characterized. In this report, we observed that influenza virus induced robust expression of IFN-λ in alveolar epithelial cells (A549) mainly through a RIG-I-dependent pathway, but IFN-λ-induced phosphorylation of the signal transducer and activator of transcription protein 1 (STAT1) was dramatically inhibited in the infected cells. Remarkably, influenza virus infection induced robust expression of suppressor of cytokine signaling-1 (SOCS-1), leading to inhibition of STAT1 activation. Interestingly, the virus-induced SOCS-1 expression was cytokine-independent at early stage of infection both in vitro and in vivo. Using transgenic mouse model and distinct approaches altering the expression of SOCS-1 or activation of STAT signaling, we demonstrated that disruption of the SOCS-1 expression or expression of constitutively active STAT1 significantly reduced the production of IFN-λ during influenza virus infection. Furthermore, we revealed that disruption of IFN-λ signaling pathway by increased SOCS-1 protein resulted in the activation of NF-κB and thereby enhanced the IFN-λ expression. Together, these data imply that suppression of IFN-λ signaling by virus-induced SOCS-1 causes an adaptive increase in IFN-λ expression by host to protect cells against the viral infection, as a consequence, leading to excessive production of IFN-λ with impaired antiviral response.
Author Summary
Influenza virus infection triggers innate immune responses. However, aberrant host immune responses such as excessive production of cytokines contribute to the pathogenesis of influenza virus. Type III interferons (IFN-λ) constitute the major innate immune response to influenza virus infection, but the precise pathogenic processes of IFN-λ production and mechanistic underpinnings are not well understood. In this study, we report that influenza virus induces robust IFN-λ expression mainly through a RIG-I-dependent pathway, but signaling activated by IFN-λ was dramatically inhibited by virus-induced SOCS-1. Importantly, we found that disruption of the SOCS-1 expression or forced activation of STAT1 significantly reduced the expression of IFN-λ in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that suppression of IFN-λ signaling by SOCS-1 results in their excessive production during influenza virus infection. Furthermore, our experiments revealed that disruption of IFN-λ signaling pathway resulted in the activation of NF-κB that governs the IFN-λ expression. Together these findings, we propose that impaired antiviral response of IFN-λ due to the inhibitory effect of SOCS-1 causes an adaptive increase in IFN-λ expression by host to protect cells against the viral infection. This is a novel mechanism that may be critical in the pathogenesis of the influenza virus strains that induce hypercytokinemia.
PMCID: PMC3879354  PMID: 24391501
18.  Induction of Interferon and Interferon Signaling Pathways by Replication of Defective Interfering Particle RNA in Cells Constitutively Expressing Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Replication Proteins▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(9):4826-4831.
We show here that replication of defective interfering (DI) particle RNA in HEK293 cells stably expressing vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) replication proteins potently activates interferon (IFN) and IFN signaling pathways through upregulation of IFN-β promoter, IFN-stimulated response element (ISRE) promoter, and NF-κB promoter activities. Replication of DI particle RNA, not mere expression of the viral replication proteins, was found to be critical for induction of IFN and IFN signaling. The stable cells supporting replication of DI RNA described in this report will be useful in further examining the innate immune signaling pathways and the host cell functions in viral genome replication.
PMCID: PMC2863789  PMID: 20181705
19.  Reduced Expression of IRF7 in Nasal Epithelial Cells from Smokers after Infection with Influenza 
Smokers are more susceptible to respiratory viral infections, including influenza virus, but the mechanisms mediating this effect are unknown. To determine how epithelial cells contribute to the enhanced susceptibility seen in smokers, we established an in vitro model of differentiated nasal epithelial cells (NECs) from smokers, which showed enhanced mucin expression. The NECs from smokers responded to influenza infection with greater cytotoxicity, release of interleukin-6, and viral shedding than NECs from nonsmokers. Focusing on type I interferon (IFN) expression, we observed that influenza-infected NECs from smokers produced significantly less IFN-α than NECs from nonsmokers. Similarly, the expression of IRF7, a key transcription factor controlling the expression of IFN-α, was significantly decreased in influenza-infected and IFN-β–stimulated NECs from smokers. Furthermore, our data indicate that the DNA methylation of the IRF7 gene and expression of the DNA (cytosine-5-)-methyltransferase 1 was enhanced in NECs from smokers. To confirm these findings in vivo, we initiated a study in which smoking and nonsmoking healthy volunteers were inoculated nasally with the live-attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) vaccine, and nasal biopsies were obtained before and after the administration of LAIV. The LAIV-induced expression of IRF7 was lower in the nasal epithelium from smokers, supporting our in vitro observations. These data demonstrate that infection with influenza results in the reduced expression of transcription factor IRF7 in NECs from smokers, and that these effects may be mediated by an epigenetic modification of the IRF7 gene, thus providing a potential mechanism rendering smokers more susceptible to respiratory virus infections.
PMCID: PMC2933552  PMID: 19880818
influenza; IRF7; cigarette smoke; nasal epithelium
20.  Cytokine production by human leukocytes with different expressions of natural antiviral immunity and the effect of antibodies against interferons and TNF-± 
Two activities of innate antiviral immunity were studied: the resistance of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PMBCs) ex vivo to viral infection and the production of cytokines.
Materials and Methods:
Samples of blood were taken from healthy blood donors and from persons with frequent infections of the upper respiratory system. PMBCs were isolated by gradient centrifugation. Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) was used as the indicatory virus to infect PMBCs. The cytokines: IFN, TNF, and IL-6 were titrated by biological methods and IL-10 by ELISA.
Blood donors were divided for two groups: those with VSV-resistant and those with VSV-sensitive PMBCs and secretion of cytokines by them was compared. The resistant PMBCs produced more cytokines than the sensitive ones. A statistically significant difference, was found only in the case of the IFNs. To examine the contribution of IFNs and TNF in maintaining resistance, leukocytes from both groups were treated with specific anti-cytokine antibodies. The authors’ previous study showed that the elimination of spontaneous IFN-±, IFN-β, IFN-γ, and TNF-± from resistant leukocytes resulted in increased VSV replication This indicates the important role of cytokines. In VSV-sensitive PMBCs, anti-IFN-± showed the opposite effect (decreased virus replication). In the absence of spontaneous IFN-±, disturbances in cytokine production were observed.
Complete resistance of PMBC to VSV infection is accompanied by higher cytokine release, The paradoxical effect of anti-IFN-± on virus replication in leukocytes sensitive to viral infection may be attributed to changes in the cytokine profile balance, i.e. high TNF production by VSV-infected leukocytes and a complete reduction of IL-6 production.
PMCID: PMC2765630  PMID: 17417691
cytokines; leukocytes; innate immunity; viral infection
21.  Respiratory virus–induced EGFR activation suppresses IRF1-dependent interferon λ and antiviral defense in airway epithelium 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2013;210(10):1929-1936.
Inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor during viral infection augments IRF1-dependent IFN-λ production and decreases viral titers.
Viruses suppress host responses to increase infection, and understanding these mechanisms has provided insights into cellular signaling and led to novel therapies. Many viruses (e.g., Influenza virus, Rhinovirus [RV], Cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and Hepatitis C virus) activate epithelial epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a tyrosine kinase receptor, but the role of EGFR in viral pathogenesis is not clear. Interferon (IFN) signaling is a critical innate antiviral host response and recent experiments have implicated IFN-λ, a type III IFN, as the most significant IFN for mucosal antiviral immune responses. Despite the importance of IFN-λ in epithelial antiviral responses, the role and mechanisms of epithelial IFN-λ signaling have not been fully elucidated. We report that respiratory virus-induced EGFR activation suppresses endogenous airway epithelial antiviral signaling. We found that Influenza virus– and RV-induced EGFR activation suppressed IFN regulatory factor (IRF) 1–induced IFN-λ production and increased viral infection. In addition, inhibition of EGFR during viral infection augmented IRF1 and IFN-λ, which resulted in decreased viral titers in vitro and in vivo. These findings describe a novel mechanism that viruses use to suppress endogenous antiviral defenses, and provide potential targets for future therapies.
PMCID: PMC3782052  PMID: 23999497
22.  Type III IFN Interleukin-28 Mediates the Antitumor Efficacy of Oncolytic Virus VSV in Immune-Competent Mouse Models of Cancer 
Cancer research  2010;70(11):4539-4549.
Innate immune effector mechanisms triggered by oncolytic viruses may contribute to the clearance of both infected and uninfected tumor cells in immunocompetent murine hosts. Here, we developed an in vitro tumor cell/bone marrow coculture assay and used it to dissect innate immune sensor and effector responses to intratumoral vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). We found that the type III IFN interleukin-28 (IL-28) was induced by viral activation of innate immune-sensing cells, acting as a key mediator of VSV-mediated virotherapy of B16ova melanomas. Using tumor variants which differentially express the IL-28 receptor, we showed that IL-28 induced by VSV within the tumor microenvironment sensitizes tumor cells to natural killer cell recognition and activation. These results revealed new insights into the immunovirological mechanisms associated with oncolytic virotherapy in immune-competent hosts. Moreover, they defined a new class of tumor-associated mutation, such as acquired loss of responsiveness to IL-28 signaling, which confers insensitivity to oncolytic virotherapy through a mechanism independent of viral replication in vitro. Lastly, the findings suggested new strategies to manipulate immune signals that may enhance viral replication, along with antitumor immune activation, and improve the efficacy of oncolytic virotherapies.
PMCID: PMC3896099  PMID: 20484025
23.  Critical Role of Interferon-α Constitutively Produced in Human Hepatocytes in Response to RNA Virus Infection 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89869.
Several viruses are known to infect human liver and cause the hepatitis, but the interferon (IFN) response, a first-line defense against viral infection, of virus-infected hepatocytes is not clearly defined yet. We investigated innate immune system against RNA viral infection in immortalized human hepatocytes (HuS-E/2 cells), as the cells showed similar early innate immune responses to primary human hepatocytes (PHH). The low-level constitutive expression of IFN-α1 gene, but not IFN-β and IFN-λ, was observed in both PHH and HuS-E/2 cells in the absence of viral infection, suggesting a particular subtype(s) of IFN-α is constitutively produced in human hepatocytes. To examine the functional role of such IFN-α in the antiviral response, the expression profiles of innate immune-related genes were studied in the cells with the treatment of neutralization against type I IFN receptor 2 (IFNAR2) or IFN-α itself to inhibit the constitutive IFN-α signaling before and after virus infection. As the results, a clear reduction of basal level expression of IFN-inducible genes was observed in uninfected cells. When the effect of the inhibition on the cells infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) was examined, the significant decrease of IFN stimulated gene expression and the enhancement of initial HCV replication were observed, suggesting that the steady-state production of IFN-α plays a role in amplification of antiviral responses to control the spread of RNA viral infection in human hepatocytes.
PMCID: PMC3935935  PMID: 24587086
24.  Antiviral Responses by Swine Primary Bronchoepithelial Cells Are Limited Compared to Human Bronchoepithelial Cells Following Influenza Virus Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70251.
Swine generate reassortant influenza viruses because they can be simultaneously infected with avian and human influenza; however, the features that restrict influenza reassortment in swine and human hosts are not fully understood. Type I and III interferons (IFNs) act as the first line of defense against influenza virus infection of respiratory epithelium. To determine if human and swine have different capacities to mount an antiviral response the expression of IFN and IFN-stimulated genes (ISG) in normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells and normal swine bronchial epithelial (NSBE) cells was evaluated following infection with human (H3N2), swine (H1N1), and avian (H5N3, H5N2, H5N1) influenza A viruses. Expression of IFNλ and ISGs were substantially higher in NHBE cells compared to NSBE cells following H5 avian influenza virus infection compared to human or swine influenza virus infection. This effect was associated with reduced H5 avian influenza virus replication in human cells at late times post infection. Further, RIG-I expression was lower in NSBE cells compared to NHBE cells suggesting reduced virus sensing. Together, these studies identify key differences in the antiviral response between human and swine respiratory epithelium alluding to differences that may govern influenza reassortment.
PMCID: PMC3707852  PMID: 23875024
25.  Activation of Toll-Like Receptors Inhibits Herpes Simplex Virus-1 Infection of Human Neuronal Cells 
Journal of neuroscience research  2009;87(13):2916-2925.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play an essential role in initiating intracellular type I interferon (IFN)-mediated innate immunity against viral infections. We examined whether human neuronal cells (primary human neurons, NT2-N and CHP-212 cells) express TLRs and mount type I IFN-mediated innate immunity against herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) infection. Human neuronal cells expressed TLR family members 1–10 and IFN-α/β. The activation of TLR3 or TLR8 by double-stranded RNA (poly-I:C) or single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) induced IFN-α/β expression. In addition, HSV-1 infection of human neuronal cells induced IFN-α expression. Investigation of the mechanisms showed that poly-I:C or ssRNA treatment enhanced the expression of several IFN regulatory factors. Importantly, the activation of TLR3 or TLR8 by poly-I:C or ssRNA prior to HSV-1 infection reduced the susceptibility of the neuronal cells to infection. These observations indicate that human neuronal cells possess intracellular TLR-mediated innate immune protection against HSV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3935181  PMID: 19437550
human neuronal cells; Toll-like receptor; poly-I:C; ssRNA; herpes simplex virus-1; type I interferons

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