DDX3X coordinates host defense against influenza virus by activating the NLRP3 inflammasome and type I interferon response

J Biol Chem. 2021 Jan-Jun:296:100579. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2021.100579. Epub 2021 Mar 23.


Viruses and hosts have coevolved for millions of years, leading to the development of complex host-pathogen interactions. Influenza A virus (IAV) causes severe pulmonary pathology and is a recurrent threat to human health. Innate immune sensing of IAV triggers a complex chain of host responses. IAV has adapted to evade host defense mechanisms, and the host has coevolved to counteract these evasion strategies. However, the molecular mechanisms governing the balance between host defense and viral immune evasion is poorly understood. Here, we show that the host protein DEAD-box helicase 3 X-linked (DDX3X) is critical to orchestrate a multifaceted antiviral innate response during IAV infection, coordinating the activation of the nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like receptor with a pyrin domain 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome, assembly of stress granules, and type I interferon (IFN) responses. DDX3X activated the NLRP3 inflammasome in response to WT IAV, which carries the immune evasive nonstructural protein 1 (NS1). However, in the absence of NS1, DDX3X promoted the formation of stress granules that facilitated efficient activation of type I IFN signaling. Moreover, induction of DDX3X-containing stress granules by external stimuli after IAV infection led to increased type I IFN signaling, suggesting that NS1 actively inhibits stress granule-mediated host responses and DDX3X-mediated NLRP3 activation counteracts this action. Furthermore, the loss of DDX3X expression in myeloid cells caused severe pulmonary pathogenesis and morbidity in IAV-infected mice. Together, our findings show that DDX3X orchestrates alternate modes of innate host defense which are critical to fight against NS1-mediated immune evasion strategies during IAV infection.

Keywords: DDX3X; NLRP3; NS1; host defense; immune evasion; inflammasome; influenza A virus; innate immunity; stress granule; type I IFN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / metabolism*
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism*
  • Influenza A virus / immunology
  • Influenza A virus / physiology*
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / metabolism*


  • Inflammasomes
  • Interferon Type I
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases
  • Ddx3x protein, mouse