Background: Although gene exchange is not likely to occur freely, reassortment between the H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) and currently circulating human viruses is a serious concern. The PA polymerase subunit of H5N1 HPAIV was recently reported to activate the influenza replicon activity.
Methods: The replicon activities of PR8 and WSN strains (H1N1) of influenza containing PA from HPAIV A/Cambodia/P0322095/2005 (H5N1) and the activity of the chimeric RNA polymerase were analyzed. A reassortant WSN virus containing the H5N1 Cambodia PA (C-PA) was then reconstituted and its growth in cells and pathogenicity in mice examined. The interferon promoter, TUNEL, and caspase 3, 8, and 9 activities of C-PA-infected cells were compared with those of WSN-infected cells.
Results: The activity of the chimeric RNA polymerase was slightly higher than that of WSN, and C-PA replicated better than WSN in cells. However, the multi-step growth of C-PA and its pathogenicity in mice were lower than those of WSN. The interferon promoter, TUNEL, and caspase 3, 8, and 9 activities were strongly induced in early infection in C-PA-infected cells but not in WSN-infected cells.
Conclusions: Apoptosis and interferon were strongly induced early in C-PA infection, which protected the uninfected cells from expansion of viral infection. In this case, these classical host-virus interactions contributed to the attenuation of this strongly replicating virus.