Binding of the influenza A virus NS1 protein to PKR mediates the inhibition of its activation by either PACT or double-stranded RNA

Virology. 2006 May 25;349(1):13-21. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2006.01.005. Epub 2006 Feb 8.


A major component of the cellular antiviral system is the latent protein kinase PKR, which is activated by binding to either double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) or the cellular PACT protein. Activated PKR phosphorylates the translation initiation factor eIF2, thereby inhibiting viral and cellular protein synthesis and virus replication. To evade the antiviral effects of PKR, many viruses, including influenza A virus, have evolved multiple mechanisms. For influenza A virus, the non-structural (NS1A) protein plays a major role in blocking activation of PKR during virus infection. The mechanism by which the NS1A protein inhibits PKR activation in infected cells has not been established. In the present study, we first carried out a series of in vitro experiments to determine whether the NS1A protein could utilize a common mechanism to inhibit PKR activation by both PACT and dsRNA, despite their different modes of activation. We demonstrated that the direct binding of the NS1A protein to the N-terminal 230 amino acid region of PKR can serve as such a common mechanism and that this binding does not require the RNA-binding activity of the NS1A protein. The lack of requirement for NS1A RNA-binding activity for the inhibition of PKR activation in vivo was established by two approaches. First, we showed that an NS1A protein lacking RNA-binding activity, like the wild-type (wt) protein, blocked PKR activation by PACT in vivo, as well as the downstream effects of PKR activation in cells, namely, eIF2 phosphorylation and apoptosis. In addition, we demonstrated that PKR activation is inhibited in cells infected with a recombinant influenza A virus expressing NS1A mutant protein that cannot bind RNA, as is the case in cells infected with wild-type influenza A virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / metabolism*
  • Influenza A virus / pathogenicity
  • Models, Biological
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Mapping
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / physiology*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / metabolism*
  • eIF-2 Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism*


  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2
  • INS1 protein, influenza virus
  • PRKRA protein, human
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins
  • RNA
  • eIF-2 Kinase