Influenza virus-induced lung inflammation was modulated by cigarette smoke exposure in mice

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 21;9(1):e86166. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086166. eCollection 2014.


Although smokers have increased susceptibility and severity of seasonal influenza virus infection, there is no report about the risk of 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pdmH1N1) or avian H9N2 (H9N2/G1) virus infection in smokers. In our study, we used mouse model to investigate the effect of cigarette smoke on pdmH1N1 or H9N2 virus infection. Mice were exposed to cigarette smoke for 21 days and then infected with pdmH1N1 or H9N2 virus. Control mice were exposed to air in parallel. We found that cigarette smoke exposure alone significantly upregulated the lung inflammation. Such prior cigarette smoke exposure significantly reduced the disease severity of subsequent pdmH1N1 or H9N2 virus infection. For pdmH1N1 infection, cigarette smoke exposed mice had significantly lower mortality than the control mice, possibly due to the significantly decreased production of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Similarly, after H9N2 infection, cigarette smoke exposed mice displayed significantly less weight loss, which might be attributed to lower cytokines and chemokines production, less macrophages, neutrophils, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells infiltration and reduced lung damage compared to the control mice. To further investigate the underlying mechanism, we used nicotine to mimic the effect of cigarette smoke both in vitro and in vivo. Pre-treating the primary human macrophages with nicotine for 72 h significantly decreased their expression of cytokines and chemokines after pdmH1N1 or H9N2 infection. The mice subcutaneously and continuously treated with nicotine displayed significantly less weight loss and lower inflammatory response than the control mice upon pdmH1N1 or H9N2 infection. Moreover, α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor knockout mice had more body weight loss than wild-type mice after cigarette smoke exposure and H9N2 infection. Our study provided the first evidence that the pathogenicity of both pdmH1N1 and H9N2 viruses was alleviated in cigarette smoke exposed mice, which might partially be attributed to the immunosuppressive effect of nicotine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemokines / biosynthesis
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / physiology*
  • Influenza A Virus, H9N2 Subtype / physiology*
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nicotine / pharmacology
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / blood
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / complications*
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / virology*
  • Pneumonia / blood
  • Pneumonia / complications*
  • Pneumonia / virology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / blood
  • Time Factors
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Weight Gain / drug effects
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor / deficiency
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor / metabolism


  • Chemokines
  • Chrna7 protein, mouse
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine

Grant support

This work was supported by the Area of Excellence program on Influenza, the University Grants Committee of the Hong Kong SAR, China (AoE/M-12/06); General Research Fund, Research Grants Council of Hong Kong; a Commission Grant from the Research Fund for the Control of Infectious Diseases (RFCID) of the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau of the Hong Kong SAR Government (2009-2014, Lab-11); Edward Sai-Kim Hotung Paediatric Education and Research Fund. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.