Mammalian Adaptation of an Avian Influenza A Virus Involves Stepwise Changes in NS1

J Virol. 2018 Feb 12;92(5):e01875-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01875-17. Print 2018 Mar 1.


Influenza A viruses (IAVs) are common pathogens of birds that occasionally establish endemic infections in mammals. The processes and mechanisms that result in IAV mammalian adaptation are poorly understood. The viral nonstructural 1 (NS1) protein counteracts the interferon (IFN) response, a central component of the host species barrier. We characterized the NS1 proteins of equine influenza virus (EIV), a mammalian IAV lineage of avian origin. We showed that evolutionarily distinct NS1 proteins counteract the IFN response using different and mutually exclusive mechanisms: while the NS1 proteins of early EIVs block general gene expression by binding to cellular polyadenylation-specific factor 30 (CPSF30), NS1 proteins from more evolved EIVs specifically block the induction of IFN-stimulated genes by interfering with the JAK/STAT pathway. These contrasting anti-IFN strategies are associated with two mutations that appeared sequentially and were rapidly selected for during EIV evolution, highlighting the importance of evolutionary processes in immune evasion mechanisms during IAV adaptation.IMPORTANCE Influenza A viruses (IAVs) infect certain avian reservoir species and occasionally transfer to and cause epidemics of infections in some mammalian hosts. However, the processes by which IAVs gain the ability to efficiently infect and transmit in mammals remain unclear. H3N8 equine influenza virus (EIV) is an avian-origin virus that successfully established a new lineage in horses in the early 1960s and is currently circulating worldwide in the equine population. Here, we analyzed the molecular evolution of the virulence factor nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) and show that NS1 proteins from different time periods after EIV emergence counteract the host innate immune response using contrasting strategies, which are associated with two mutations that appeared sequentially during EIV evolution. The results shown here indicate that the interplay between virus evolution and immune evasion plays a key role in IAV mammalian adaptation.

Keywords: NS1; evolution; influenza; virus-host interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Adaptation, Physiological / immunology*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Cleavage And Polyadenylation Specificity Factor / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dogs
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Genetic Vectors
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Horses
  • Host Specificity
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Influenza A Virus, H3N8 Subtype / immunology
  • Influenza A virus / genetics*
  • Influenza A virus / immunology*
  • Influenza A virus / pathogenicity
  • Interferon-beta
  • Interferons / metabolism
  • Janus Kinases
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • Mutation
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / virology
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Transcriptome
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / genetics*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / immunology*
  • Virulence Factors
  • Virus Replication / genetics


  • Cleavage And Polyadenylation Specificity Factor
  • Cytokines
  • INS1 protein, influenza virus
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins
  • Virulence Factors
  • Interferon-beta
  • Interferons
  • Janus Kinases