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J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2000 Nov;20(11):963-70.

Transient resistance of influenza virus to interferon action attributed to random multiple packaging and activity of NS genes.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3044, USA.


Interferon (IFN) action survival curves for an avian influenza virus (AIV) in chicken or quail cells showed that 40-60% of the virions in a stock of virus were highly sensitive to the inhibitory effects of chicken IFN-alpha (ChIFN-alpha), whereas the rest were up to 100 times less sensitive. This greater resistance to IFN was transient, that is, was not a stable characteristic, in that virus stocks grown from plaques that formed in the presence of 50-800 U/ml IFN gave rise to virus populations that contained both sensitive and resistant virions. If AIV was serially passaged several times in the presence of IFN, the proportion of transiently IFN-resistant virus was greater. We propose a model to account for this transient resistance of AIV to IFN action based on the reported inactivation of the dsRNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) and its activator dsRNA by the NS1 protein of influenza virus and also on the increase in the survival of AIV in IFN-treated cells exposed to 2-aminopurine, a known inhibitor of PKR. We suggest that IFN-resistant AIV is generated from a random packaging event that results in virions that contain two or more copies of RNA segment 8, the gene segment that encodes the NS1 protein of AIV, and that these virions will produce correspondingly elevated levels of NS1. The experimental data fit well to theoretical curves based on this model and constructed from the fraction of virus in the population expected by chance to contain one, two, or three copies of the NS gene when packaging an average of 12 influenza gene segments that include the 8 segments essential for infectivity.

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