The nitric oxide pathway provides innate antiviral protection in conjunction with the type I interferon pathway in fibroblasts

PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31688. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031688. Epub 2012 Feb 21.


The innate host response to virus infection is largely dominated by the production of type I interferon and interferon stimulated genes. In particular, fibroblasts respond robustly to viral infection and to recognition of viral signatures such as dsRNA with the rapid production of type I interferon; subsequently, fibroblasts are a key cell type in antiviral protection. We recently found, however, that primary fibroblasts deficient for the production of interferon, interferon stimulated genes, and other cytokines and chemokines mount a robust antiviral response against both DNA and RNA viruses following stimulation with dsRNA. Nitric oxide is a chemical compound with pleiotropic functions; its production by phagocytes in response to interferon-γ is associated with antimicrobial activity. Here we show that in response to dsRNA, nitric oxide is rapidly produced in primary fibroblasts. In the presence of an intact interferon system, nitric oxide plays a minor but significant role in antiviral protection. However, in the absence of an interferon system, nitric oxide is critical for the protection against DNA viruses. In primary fibroblasts, NF-κB and interferon regulatory factor 1 participate in the induction of inducible nitric oxide synthase expression, which subsequently produces nitric oxide. As large DNA viruses encode multiple and diverse immune modulators to disable the interferon system, it appears that the nitric oxide pathway serves as a secondary strategy to protect the host against viral infection in key cell types, such as fibroblasts, that largely rely on the type I interferon system for antiviral protection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / enzymology
  • Fibroblasts / immunology*
  • Fibroblasts / virology
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Interferon Regulatory Factor-1 / metabolism
  • Interferon Regulatory Factor-3 / deficiency
  • Interferon Regulatory Factor-3 / metabolism
  • Interferon Type I / immunology*
  • Interferon-Stimulated Gene Factor 3, gamma Subunit / deficiency
  • Interferon-Stimulated Gene Factor 3, gamma Subunit / metabolism
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Poly I-C / pharmacology
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects
  • Solubility / drug effects
  • Subcellular Fractions / drug effects
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • IRF9 protein, mouse
  • Interferon Regulatory Factor-1
  • Interferon Regulatory Factor-3
  • Interferon Type I
  • Interferon-Stimulated Gene Factor 3, gamma Subunit
  • Irf1 protein, mouse
  • Irf3 protein, mouse
  • NF-kappa B
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Poly I-C