Influenza virus has evolved replication strategies that hijack host cell pathways. To uncover interactions between viral macromolecules and host proteins, we applied a phage display strategy. A library of human cDNA expression products displayed on filamentous phages was submitted to affinity selection for influenza viral ribonucleoproteins (vRNPs). High-mobility-group box (HMGB) proteins were found to bind to the nucleoprotein (NP) component of vRNPs. HMGB1 and HMGB2 bind directly to the purified NP in the absence of viral RNA, and the HMG box A domain is sufficient to bind the NP. We show that HMGB1 associates with the viral NP in the nuclei of infected cells, promotes viral growth, and enhances the activity of the viral polymerase. The presence of a functional HMGB1 DNA-binding site is required to enhance influenza virus replication. Glycyrrhizin, which reduces HMGB1 binding to DNA, inhibits influenza virus polymerase activity. Our data show that the HMGB1 protein can play a significant role in intranuclear replication of influenza viruses, thus extending previous findings on the bornavirus and on a number of DNA viruses.
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