Nature communications

Multi-spectral fluorescent reporter influenza viruses (Color-flu) as powerful tools for in vivo studies.

PMID 25807527


Seasonal influenza A viruses cause annual epidemics of respiratory disease; highly pathogenic avian H5N1 and the recently emerged H7N9 viruses cause severe infections in humans, often with fatal outcomes. Although numerous studies have addressed the pathogenicity of influenza viruses, influenza pathogenesis remains incompletely understood. Here we generate influenza viruses expressing fluorescent proteins of different colours ('Color-flu' viruses) to facilitate the study of viral infection in in vivo models. On adaptation to mice, stable expression of the fluorescent proteins in infected animals allows their detection by different types of microscopy and by flow cytometry. We use this system to analyse the progression of viral spread in mouse lungs, for live imaging of virus-infected cells, and for differential gene expression studies in virus antigen-positive and virus antigen-negative live cells in the lungs of Color-flu-infected mice. Collectively, Color-flu viruses are powerful tools to analyse virus infections at the cellular level in vivo to better understand influenza pathogenesis.