Background: Understanding host response to influenza virus infection will facilitate development of better diagnoses and therapeutic interventions. Several different experimental models have been used as a proxy for human infection, including cell cultures derived from human cells, mice, and non-human primates. Each of these systems has been studied extensively in isolation, but little effort has been directed toward systematically characterizing the conservation of host response on a global level beyond known immune signaling cascades.
Results: In the present study, we employed a multivariate modeling approach to characterize and compare the transcriptional regulatory networks between these three model systems after infection with a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus of the H5N1 subtype. Using this approach we identified functions and pathways that display similar behavior and/or regulation including the well-studied impact on the interferon response and the inflammasome. Our results also suggest a primary response role for airway epithelial cells in initiating hypercytokinemia, which is thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of H5N1 viruses. We further demonstrate that we can use a transcriptional regulatory model from the human cell culture data to make highly accurate predictions about the behavior of important components of the innate immune system in tissues from whole organisms.
Conclusions: This is the first demonstration of a global regulatory network modeling conserved host response between in vitro and in vivo models.