Trehalose-mediated autophagy impairs the anti-viral function of human primary airway epithelial cells

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Human rhinovirus (HRV) is the most common cause of acute exacerbations of chronic lung diseases including asthma. Impaired anti-viral IFN-λ1 production and increased HRV replication in human asthmatic airway epithelial cells may be one of the underlying mechanisms leading to asthma exacerbations. Increased autophagy has been shown in asthmatic airway epithelium, but the role of autophagy in anti-HRV response remains uncertain. Trehalose, a natural glucose disaccharide, has been recognized as an effective autophagy inducer in mammalian cells. In the current study, we used trehalose to induce autophagy in normal human primary airway epithelial cells in order to determine if autophagy directly regulates the anti-viral response against HRV. We found that trehalose-induced autophagy significantly impaired IFN-λ1 expression and increased HRV-16 load. Inhibition of autophagy via knockdown of autophagy-related gene 5 (ATG5) effectively rescued the impaired IFN-λ1 expression by trehalose and subsequently reduced HRV-16 load. Mechanistically, ATG5 protein interacted with retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) and IFN-β promoter stimulator 1 (IPS-1), two critical molecules involved in the expression of anti-viral interferons. Our results suggest that induction of autophagy in human primary airway epithelial cells inhibits the anti-viral IFN-λ1 expression and facilitates HRV infection. Intervention of excessive autophagy in chronic lung diseases may provide a novel approach to attenuate viral infections and associated disease exacerbations.




Wu, Q., Jiang, D., Huang, C., Van Dyk, L. F., Li, L., & Chu, H. W. (2015). Trehalose-mediated autophagy impairs the anti-viral function of human primary airway epithelial cells. PLoS ONE, 10(4).

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