The absent in melanoma 2 (AIM2) inflammasome plays an important role in many viral and bacterial infections, but very little is known about its role in RNA virus infection, including influenza A virus (IAV). In this study, we have designed in vivo and in vitro studies to determine the role of AIM2 in infections with lethal doses of IAVs A/PR8/34 and A/California/07/09. In wild-type mice, IAV infection enhanced AIM2 expression, induced dsDNA release, and stimulated caspase-1 activation and release of cleaved IL-1β in the lung, which was significantly reduced in AIM2-deficient mice. Interestingly, AIM2 deficiency did not affect the transcription of caspase-1 and IL-1β. In addition, AIM2-deficient mice exhibited attenuated lung injury and significantly improved survival against IAV challenges, but did not alter viral burden in the lung. However, AIM2 deficiency did not seem to affect adaptive immune response against IAV infections. Furthermore, experiments with AIM2-specific small interfering RNA–treated and AIM2-deficient human and mouse lung alveolar macrophages and type II cells indicated a macrophage-specific function of AIM2 in regulation of IAV-stimulated proinflammatory response. Collectively, our results demonstrate that influenza infection activates the AIM2 inflammasome, which plays a critical role in IAV-induced lung injury and mortality. AIM2 might serve as a therapeutic target for combating influenza-associated morbidity and mortality without compromising the host antiviral responses.
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants R03AI101953 and R01HL113655, startup funding from the University of Pittsburgh (to J.W.), and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Research Development Program.
The online version of this article contains supplemental material.
- Received April 28, 2016.
- Accepted March 24, 2017.
- Copyright © 2017 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.
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