Mx1 reveals innate pathways to antiviral resistance and lethal influenza disease

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Science  22 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6284, pp. 463-466
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf3926

Flu immunity shows its age

As we age, our immune systems change; in many ways not for the better. For instance, the elderly account for 90% of influenza deaths annually. Pillai et al. now report that influenza-infected human monocytes, a type of immune cell, exhibit reduced antiviral activity. In influenza-infected mice, two innate immune sensing pathways work together to promote antiviral immunity to influenza. Mice lacking antiviral immunity (similar to the situation in elderly people) had elevated bacterial burdens in their lungs and increased inflammatory responses, which both contributed to their increased susceptibility to influenza.

Science, this issue p. 463


Influenza A virus (IAV) causes up to half a million deaths worldwide annually, 90% of which occur in older adults. We show that IAV-infected monocytes from older humans have impaired antiviral interferon production but retain intact inflammasome responses. To understand the in vivo consequence, we used mice expressing a functional Mx gene encoding a major interferon-induced effector against IAV in humans. In Mx1-intact mice with weakened resistance due to deficiencies in Mavs and Tlr7, we found an elevated respiratory bacterial burden. Notably, mortality in the absence of Mavs and Tlr7 was independent of viral load or MyD88-dependent signaling but dependent on bacterial burden, caspase-1/11, and neutrophil-dependent tissue damage. Therefore, in the context of weakened antiviral resistance, vulnerability to IAV disease is a function of caspase-dependent pathology.

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