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The respiratory syncytial virus fusion protein and neutrophils mediate the airway mucin response to pathogenic respiratory syncytial virus infection


The respiratory syncytial virus fusion protein and neutrophils mediate the airway mucin response to pathogenic respiratory syncytial virus infection



Journal of Virology 87(18): 10070-10082



ISSN/ISBN: 0022-538X

PMID: 23843644

DOI: 10.1128/jvi.01347-13

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading cause of death due to a viral etiology in infants. RSV disease is characterized by epithelial desquamation, neutrophilic bronchiolitis and pneumonia, and obstructive pulmonary mucus. It has been shown that infection of BALB/cJ mice with RSV clinical isolate A2001/2-20 (2-20) results in a higher early viral load, greater airway necrosis, and higher levels of interleukin-13 (IL-13) and airway mucin expression than infection with RSV laboratory strain A2. We hypothesized that the fusion (F) protein of RSV 2-20 is a mucus-inducing viral factor. In vitro, the fusion activity of 2-20 F but not that of A2 F was enhanced by expression of RSV G. We generated a recombinant F-chimeric RSV by replacing the F gene of A2 with the F gene of 2-20, generating A2-2-20F. Similar to the results obtained with the parent 2-20 strain, infection of BALB/cJ mice with A2-2-20F resulted in a higher early viral load and higher levels of subsequent pulmonary mucin expression than infection with the A2 strain. A2-2-20F infection induced greater necrotic airway damage and neutrophil infiltration than A2 infection. We hypothesized that the neutrophil response to A2-2-20F infection is involved in mucin expression. Antibody-mediated depletion of neutrophils in RSV-infected mice resulted in lower tumor necrosis factor alpha levels, fewer IL-13-expressing CD4 T cells, and less airway mucin production in the lung. Our data are consistent with a model in which the F and attachment (G) glycoprotein functional interaction leads to enhanced fusion and F is a key factor in airway epithelium infection, pathogenesis, and subsequent airway mucin expression.

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