PloS one

PB1-F2 attenuates virulence of highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza virus in chickens.

PMID 24959667


Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) is a permanent threat due to its capacity to cross species barriers and generate severe infections and high mortality in humans. Recent findings have highlighted the potential role of PB1-F2, a small accessory influenza protein, in the pathogenesis process mediated by HPAIV in mammals. In this study, using a recombinant H5N1 HPAIV (wt) and its PB1-F2-deleted mutant (ΔF2), we studied the effects of PB1-F2 in a chicken model. Unexpectedly, when using low inoculation dose we observed that the wt-infected chickens had a higher survival rate than the ΔF2-infected chickens, a feature that contrasts with what is usually observed in mammals. High inoculation dose had similar mortality rate for both viruses, and comparison of the bio-distribution of the two viruses indicated that the expression of PB1-F2 allows a better spreading of the virus within chicken embryos. Transcriptomic profiles of lungs and blood cells were characterized at two days post-infection in chickens inoculated with the wild type (wt) or the ΔF2 mutant viruses. In lungs, the expression of PB1-F2 during the infection induced pathways related to calcium signaling and repressed a large panel of immunological functions. In blood cells, PB1-F2 was associated with a gene signature specific for mitochondrial dysfunction and down-modulated leucocytes activation. Finally we compared the effect of PB1-F2 in lungs of chickens and mice. We identified that gene signature associated to tissue damages is a PB1-F2 feature shared by the two species; by contrast, the early inhibition of immune response mediated by PB1-F2 observed in chickens is not seen in mice. In summary, our data suggest that PB1-F2 expression deeply affect the immune response in chickens in a way that may attenuate pathogenicity at low infection dose, a feature differing from what was previously observed in mammal species.