Semi-continuous propagation of influenza A virus and its defective interfering particles: analyzing the dynamic competition to select candidates for antiviral therapy

Lars Pelz, Daniel Rüdiger, Tanya Dogra, Fadi G Alnaji, Yvonne Genzel, Christopher B Brooke, Sascha Y Kupke, Udo Reichl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Defective interfering particles (DIPs) of influenza A virus (IAV) are naturally occurring mutants that comprise an internal deletion in one of their eight viral RNA (vRNA) segments, rendering them propagation-incompetent. Upon co-infection with infectious standard virus (STV), DIPs interfere with STV replication through competitive inhibition. Thus, DIPs are proposed as potent antivirals for treatment of the influenza disease. To select corresponding candidates, we studied de novo generation of DIPs and propagation competition between different defective interfering (DI) vRNAs in a STV co-infection scenario in cell culture. A small-scale two-stage cultivation system that allows long-term semi-continuous propagation of IAV and its DIPs was used. Strong periodic oscillations in virus titers were observed due to the dynamic interaction of DIPs and STVs. Using next-generation sequencing, we detected a predominant formation and accumulation of DI vRNAs on the polymerase-encoding segments. Short DI vRNAs accumulated to higher fractions than longer ones, indicating a replication advantage. Yet, an optimum fragment length was observed. Some DI vRNAs showed breaking points in a specific part of their bundling signal (belonging to the packaging signal), suggesting its dispensability for DI vRNA propagation. Over a total cultivation time of 21 days, several individual DI vRNAs accumulated to high fractions, while others decreased. Using reverse genetics for IAV, purely clonal DIPs derived from highly replicating DI vRNAs were generated. We confirm that these DIPs exhibit a superior in vitro interfering efficacy than DIPs derived from lowly accumulated DI vRNAs and suggest promising candidates for efficacious antiviral treatment. Importance Defective interfering particles (DIPs) emerge naturally during viral infection and typically show an internal deletion in the viral genome. Thus, DIPs are propagation-incompetent. Previous research suggests DIPs as potent antiviral compounds for many different virus families due to their ability to interfere with virus replication by competitive inhibition. For instance, the administration of influenza A virus (IAV) DIPs resulted in a rescue of mice from an otherwise lethal IAV dose. Moreover, no apparent toxic effects were observed when only DIPs were administered to mice and ferrets. IAV DIPs show antiviral activity against many different IAV strains, including pandemic and highly pathogenic avian strains, and even against non-homologous viruses, like SARS-CoV-2, by stimulation of innate immunity. Here, we used a cultivation/infection system, which exerted selection pressure toward accumulation of highly competitive IAV DIPs. These DIPs showed a superior interfering efficacy in vitro, and we suggest them for effective antiviral therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)JVI0117421
JournalJournal of virology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Sep 22 2021

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