Replication Dynamics, Pathogenicity, and Evolution of Influenza Viruses in Intestinal Caco-2 Cells
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BACKGROUND: Influenza virus is a major cause of respiratory infections worldwide. Besides the common respiratory symptoms, namouras cases with gastrointestinal symptoms have been reported. Moreover, influenza virus has been detected in feces of up to 20.6 % of influenza-infected patients. Therefore, direct infection of intestinal cells with influenza virus is suspected, however, the mechanism of this infection has not been explored. AIM: To investigate influenza virus replication, cellular responses to infection, and virus evolution following serial infection in human Caucasian colon adenocarcinoma cells (Caco-2 cells). METHODS: Two influenza A subtypes (A/H3N2 and A/H1N1pdm 09) and one influenza B virus (B/Yamagata) were serially passaged in Caco-2. Quantitative PCR was used to study hormones and cytokines expression following infection. Deep sequencing analysis of viral genome was used to assess the virus evolution. RESULTS: The replication capacity of the three viruses was maintained throughout 12 passages, with H3N2 virus being the fastest in adaptation. The expression of hormone and cytokines in Caco-2 cells was considerably different between the viruses and among the passages, however, a pattern of induction was observed at the late phase of infection. Deep sequencing analysis revealed a few amino acid substitutions in the HA protein of H3N2 and H1N1 viruses, mostly in the antigenic site. Moreover, virus evolution at the quasispecies level based on HA protein revealed that H3N2 and H1N1 harbored more diverse virus populations when compared to IBV, indicating their higher evolution within Caco-2 cells. CONCLUSION: The findings of this study indicate the possibility of influenza virus replication in intestinal cells. To further explain the gastrointestinal complications of influenza infections in-vivo experiments with different influenza viruses are needed.
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