Nature communications

An NS-segment exonic splicing enhancer regulates influenza A virus replication in mammalian cells.

PMID 28323816


Influenza virus utilizes host splicing machinery to process viral mRNAs expressed from both M and NS segments. Through genetic analysis and functional characterization, we here show that the NS segment of H7N9 virus contains a unique G540A substitution, located within a previously undefined exonic splicing enhancer (ESE) motif present in the NEP mRNA of influenza A viruses. G540A supports virus replication in mammalian cells while retaining replication ability in avian cells. Host splicing regulator, SF2, interacts with this ESE to regulate splicing of NEP/NS1 mRNA and G540A substitution affects SF2-ESE interaction. The NS1 protein directly interacts with SF2 in the nucleus and modulates splicing of NS mRNAs during virus replication. We demonstrate that splicing of NEP/NS1 mRNA is regulated through a cis NEP-ESE motif and suggest a unique NEP-ESE may contribute to provide H7N9 virus with the ability to both circulate efficiently in avian hosts and replicate in mammalian cells.