Influenza A viral infections have been identified as the etiologic agents for historic pandemics, and contribute to the annual mortality associated with acute viral pneumonia. While both innate and acquired immunity are important in combating influenza virus infection, the mechanism connecting these arms of the immune system remains unknown. Recent data have indicated that the Notch system is an important bridge between antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and T cell communication circuits and plays a central role in driving the immune system to overcome disease. In the present study, we examine the role of Notch signaling during influenza H1N1 virus infection, focusing on APCs. We demonstrate here that macrophages, but not dendritic cells (DCs), increased Notch ligand Delta-like 1 (Dll1) expression following influenza virus challenge. Dll1 expression on macrophages was dependent on retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I) induced type-I IFN pathway, and not on the TLR3-TRIF pathway. We also found that IFNα-Receptor knockout mice failed to induce Dll1 expression on lung macrophages and had enhanced mortality during influenza virus infection. Our results further showed that specific neutralization of Dll1 during influenza virus challenge induced higher mortality, impaired viral clearance, and decreased levels of IFN-γ. In addition, we blocked Notch signaling by using γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI), a Notch signaling inhibitor. Intranasal administration of GSI during influenza infection also led to higher mortality, and higher virus load with excessive inflammation and an impaired production of IFN-γ in lungs. Moreover, Dll1 expression on macrophages specifically regulates IFN-γ levels from CD4+and CD8+T cells, which are important for anti-viral immunity. Together, the results of this study show that Dll1 positively influences the development of anti-viral immunity, and may provide mechanistic approaches for modifying and controlling the immune response against influenza H1N1 virus infection.
Influenza viruses cause annual epidemics and occasional pandemics that have claimed the lives of millions. Both innate and acquired immunity are essential for protection against influenza virus, and Notch and Notch ligands provide a key bridge between innate and acquired immunity. However, the role of Notch system during influenza virus infection is unknown. Here, we show that Notch ligand Delta-like 1 (Dll1) expression was up-regulated in influenza virus H1N1 challenged macrophages, and was dependent on both retinoic-acid–inducible protein I (RIG-I) and IFNα receptor (IFNαR)-mediated pathways. IFNαR-deficient mice challenged with influenza virus in vivo also display a profoundly impaired Dll1 expression with increased mortality and abrogated IFN-γ production. Treatment of WT mice during influenza infection, with either neutralizing antibodies specific for Dll1 or a γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI), which blocks Notch signaling, resulted in increased mortality, impaired viral clearance, and lower IFN-γ production. In addition, Dll1 specifically regulated IFN-γ production from both CD4+and CD8+T cells in vitro. Together, these results suggest that Notch signaling through macrophage-dependent Dll1 is critical in providing an anti-viral response during influenza infection by linking innate and acquired immunity.