Influenza A Infection Stimulates RIG-I and Enhances Effector Function of Primary Human NK Cells

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jul 30;24(15):12220. doi: 10.3390/ijms241512220.


Immune surveillance by natural killer (NK) cells and their recruitment to sites of inflammation renders them susceptible to viral infection, potentially modulating their effector function. Here, we analyzed innate RNA receptor signaling in NK cells downstream of direct Influenza A virus (IAV) infection and its impact on NK cell effector function. Infection of NK cells with IAV resulted in the activation of TBK1, NF-ϰB and subsequent type-I IFN secretion. CRISPR-generated knockouts in primary human NK cells revealed that this effect depended on the antiviral cytosolic RNA receptor RIG-I. Transfection of NK cells with synthetic 3p-dsRNA, a strong RIG-I agonist that mimics viral RNA, resulted in a similar phenotype and rendered NK cells resistant to subsequent IAV infection. Strikingly, both IAV infection and 3p-dsRNA transfection enhanced degranulation and cytokine production by NK cells when exposed to target cells. Thus, RIG-I activation in NK cells both supports their cell intrinsic viral defense and enhances their cytotoxic effector function against target cells.

Keywords: IFN-α/β; Influenza A; NK cells; RIG-I; innate nucleic acid receptors.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus* / physiology
  • Influenza, Human*
  • Interferon Type I*
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • RNA


  • Interferon Type I
  • RNA
  • RIGI protein, human