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Virol J. 2012 Aug 6;9:149. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-9-149.

Non structural protein of avian influenza A (H11N1) virus is a weaker suppressor of immune responses but capable of inducing apoptosis in host cells.

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  • 1Microbial Containment Complex, National Institute of Virology, Pashan, Pune, India.



The Non-Structural (NS1) protein of Influenza A viruses is an extensively studied multifunctional protein which is commonly considered as key viral component to fight against host immune responses. Even though there has been a lot of studies on the involvement of NS1 protein in host immune responses there are still ambiguities regarding its role in apoptosis in infected cells. Interactions of NS1 protein with host factors, role of NS1 protein in regulating cellular responses and apoptosis are quite complicated and further studies are still needed to understand it completely.


NS1 genes of influenza A/Chicken/India/WBNIV2653/2008 (H5N1) and A/Aquatic bird/India/NIV-17095/2007(H11N1) were cloned and expressed in human embryonic kidney (293T) cells. Microarray based approach to study the host cellular responses to NS1 protein of the two influenza A viruses of different pathogenicity showed significant differences in the host gene expression profile. NS1 protein of H5N1 resulted in suppression of IFN-β mediated innate immune responses, leading to down-regulation of the components of JAK-STAT pathway like STAT1 which further suppressed the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines like CXCL10 and CCL5. The degree of suppression of host immune genes was found considerable with NS1 protein of H11N1 but was not as prominent as with H5N1-NS1. TUNEL assay analyses were found to be positive in both the NS1 transfected cells indicating both H5N1 as well as H11N1 NS1 proteins were able to induce apoptosis in transfected cells.


We propose that NS1 protein of both H5N1 and H11N1 subtypes of influenza viruses are capable of influencing host immune responses and possess necessary functionality to support apoptosis in host cells. H11N1, a low pathogenic virus without any proven evidence to infect mammals, contains a highly potential NS1 gene which might contribute to greater virus virulence in different gene combinations.

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