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Influenza A Virus NS1 Protein Prevents Activation of NF-κB and Induction of Alpha/Beta Interferon

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Virus-Cell Interactions
  • Biology


The alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β) system represents one of the first lines of defense against virus infections. As a result, most viruses encode IFN antagonistic factors which enhance viral replication in their hosts. We have previously shown that a recombinant influenza A virus lacking the NS1 gene (delNS1) only replicates efficiently in IFN-α/β-deficient systems. Consistent with this observation, we found that infection of tissue culture cells with delNS1 virus, but not with wild-type influenza A virus, induced high levels of mRNA synthesis from IFN-α/β genes, including IFN-β. It is known that transactivation of the IFN-β promoter depends on NF-κB and several other transcription factors. Interestingly, cells infected with delNS1 virus showed high levels of NF-κB activation compared with those infected with wild-type virus. Expression of dominant-negative inhibitors of the NF-κB pathway during delNS1 virus infection prevented the transactivation of the IFN-β promoter, demonstrating a functional link between NF-κB activation and IFN-α/β synthesis in delNS1 virus-infected cells. Moreover, expression of the NS1 protein prevented virus- and/or double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-mediated activation of the NF-κB pathway and of IFN-β synthesis. This inhibitory property of the NS1 protein of influenza A virus was dependent on its ability to bind dsRNA, supporting a model in which binding of NS1 to dsRNA generated during influenza virus infection prevents the activation of the IFN system. NS1-mediated inhibition of the NF-κB pathway may thus play a key role in the pathogenesis of influenza A virus.

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