• Strong interferon-inducing capacity of a highly virulent variant of influenza A virus strain PR8 with deletions in the NS1 gene.

      Kochs, Georg; Martínez-Sobrido, Luis; Lienenklaus, Stefan; Weiss, Siegfried; García-Sastre, Adolfo; Staeheli, Peter; Department of Virology, University of Freiburg, D-79008 Freiburg, Germany. georg.kochs@uniklinik-freiburg.de (2009-12)
      Influenza viruses lacking the interferon (IFN)-antagonistic non-structural NS1 protein are strongly attenuated. Here, we show that mutants of a highly virulent variant of A/PR/8/34 (H1N1) carrying either a complete deletion or C-terminal truncations of NS1 were far more potent inducers of IFN in infected mice than NS1 mutants derived from standard A/PR/8/34. Efficient induction of IFN correlated with successful initial virus replication in mouse lungs, indicating that the IFN response is boosted by enhanced viral activity. As the new NS1 mutants can be handled in standard biosafety laboratories, they represent convenient novel tools for studying virus-induced IFN expression in vivo.
    • Visualizing the beta interferon response in mice during infection with influenza A viruses expressing or lacking nonstructural protein 1.

      Kallfass, Carsten; Lienenklaus, Stefan; Weiss, Siegfried; Staeheli, Peter; Department of Virology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany. (2013-06)
      The innate host defense against influenza virus is largely dependent on the type I interferon (IFN) system. However, surprisingly little is known about the cellular source of IFN in the infected lung. To clarify this question, we employed a reporter mouse that contains the firefly luciferase gene in place of the IFN-β-coding region. IFN-β-producing cells were identified either by simultaneous immunostaining of lungs for luciferase and cellular markers or by generating conditional reporter mice that express luciferase exclusively in defined cell types. Two different strains of influenza A virus were employed that either do or do not code for nonstructural protein 1 (NS1), which strongly suppresses innate immune responses of infected cells. We found that epithelial cells and lung macrophages, which represent the prime host cells for influenza viruses, showed vigorous IFN-β responses which, however, were severely reduced and delayed if the infecting virus was able to produce NS1. Interestingly, CD11c(+) cell populations that were either expressing or lacking macrophage markers produced the bulk of IFN-β at 48 h after infection with wild-type influenza A virus. Our results demonstrate that the virus-encoded IFN-antagonistic factor NS1 disarms specifically epithelial cells and lung macrophages, which otherwise would serve as main mediators of the early response against infection by influenza virus.