Thiele et al. show that importin-α3 is one of the major nuclear transporters of NF-κB in the mammalian lung. High-level TNF-α-inducing HPAIVs inhibit importin-α3 mRNA transcription by interfering with its promoter activity. Thus, HPAIVs may evade antiviral immunity in the respiratory tract by generating a bottleneck in importin-α3 availability.Importin-α adaptor proteins orchestrate dynamic nuclear transport processes involved in cellular homeostasis. Here, we show that importin-α3, one of the main NF-κB transporters, is the most abundantly expressed classical nuclear transport factor in the mammalian respiratory tract. Importin-α3 promoter activity is regulated by TNF-α-induced NF-κB in a concentration-dependent manner. High-level TNF-α-inducing highly pathogenic avian influenza A viruses (HPAIVs) isolated from fatal human cases harboring human-type polymerase signatures (PB2 627K, 701N) significantly downregulate importin-α3 mRNA expression in primary lung cells. Importin-α3 depletion is restored upon back-mutating the HPAIV polymerase into an avian-type signature (PB2 627E, 701D) that can no longer induce high TNF-α levels. Importin-α3-deficient mice show reduced NF-κB-activated antiviral gene expression and increased influenza lethality. Thus, importin-α3 plays a key role in antiviral immunity against influenza. Lifting the bottleneck in importin-α3 availability in the lung might provide a new strategy to combat respiratory virus infections.

cytokine storm, immune sensor, influenza, lung, pneumonia,
Cell Reports
Department of Virology

Thiele, S. (Swantje), Stanelle-Bertram, S. (Stephanie), Beck, S. (Sebastian), Kouassi, N.M. (Nancy Mounogou), Zickler, M. (Martin), Müller, M. (Martin), … Gabriel, G. (2020). Cellular Importin-α3 Expression Dynamics in the Lung Regulate Antiviral Response Pathways against Influenza A Virus Infection. Cell Reports, 31(3). doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107549