Whole transcriptome analysis reveals differential gene expression profile reflecting macrophage polarization in response to influenza A H5N1 virus infection

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Background: Avian influenza A H5N1 virus can cause lethal disease in humans. The virus can trigger severe pneumonia and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome. Data from clinical, in vitro and in vivo suggest that virus-induced cytokine dysregulation could be a contributory factor to the pathogenesis of human H5N1 disease. However, the precise mechanism of H5N1 infection eliciting the unique host response are still not well understood. Methods: To obtain a better understanding of the molecular events at the earliest time points, we used RNA-Seq to quantify and compare the host mRNA and miRNA transcriptomes induced by the highly pathogenic influenza A H5N1 (A/Vietnam/3212/04) or low virulent H1N1 (A/Hong Kong/54/98) viruses in human monocyte-derived macrophages at 1-, 3-, and 6-h post infection. Results: Our data reveals that two macrophage populations corresponding to M1 (classically activated) and M2 (alternatively activated) macrophage subtypes respond distinctly to H5N1 virus infection when compared to H1N1 virus or mock infection, a distinction that could not be made from previous microarray studies. When this confounding variable is considered in our statistical model, a clear set of dysregulated genes and pathways emerges specifically in H5N1 virus-infected macrophages at 6-h post infection, whilst was not found with H1N1 virus infection. Furthermore, altered expression of genes in these pathways, which have been previously implicated in viral host response, occurs specifically in the M1 subtype. We observe a significant up-regulation of genes in the RIG-I-like receptor signaling pathway. In particular, interferons, and interferon-stimulated genes are broadly affected. The negative regulators of interferon signaling, the suppressors of cytokine signaling, SOCS-1 and SOCS-3, were found to be markedly up-regulated in the initial round of H5N1 virus replication. Elevated levels of these suppressors could lead to the eventual suppression of cellular antiviral genes, contributing to pathophysiology of H5N1 virus infection. Conclusions: Our study provides important mechanistic insights into the understanding of H5N1 viral pathogenesis and the multi-faceted host immune responses. The dysregulated genes could be potential candidates as therapeutic targets for treating H5N1 disease.




Zhang, N., Bao, Y. J., Tong, A. H. Y., Zuyderduyn, S., Bader, G. D., Malik Peiris, J. S., … Lee, S. M. Y. (2018). Whole transcriptome analysis reveals differential gene expression profile reflecting macrophage polarization in response to influenza A H5N1 virus infection. BMC Medical Genomics, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12920-018-0335-0

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