Research ArticleHost-Pathogen Interactions

Inhibition of Autophagy Ameliorates Acute Lung Injury Caused by Avian Influenza A H5N1 Infection

Science Signaling  21 Feb 2012:
Vol. 5, Issue 212, pp. ra16
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2001931

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Preventing H5N1 from Damaging Lungs

The higher mortality rate of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza compared to that of the seasonal H1N1 virus is attributed to the more severe lung damage caused by the H5N1 strain. Sun et al. found that lung tissue from an individual infected with H5N1 contained many autophagosomes and that mice infected with H5N1 had greater numbers of autophagosomes in lung tissue than did mice infected with the H1N1 strain. In addition, the H5N1 virus stimulated autophagic signaling in mouse epithelial cells to a greater extent than did the H1N1 virus. Pharmacological inhibition of autophagic signaling or knockdown of components of the autophagy pathway in H5N1-infected mice resulted in less severe lung damage, increased survival rate, and decreased mortality. These findings suggest that targeting the autophagy pathway might provide therapeutic targets in treating H5N1 infection in humans.