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Open Access Research

Mutations within the conserved NS1 nuclear export signal lead to inhibition of influenza A virus replication

Janne Tynell1*, Krister Melén1 and Ilkka Julkunen12

Author Affiliations

1 Virology Unit, Department of Infectious Disease Surveillance and Control, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland

2 Department of Virology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland

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Virology Journal 2014, 11:128  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-128

Published: 14 July 2014

Abstract

Background

The influenza A virus NS1 protein is a virulence factor and an antagonist of host cell innate immune responses. During virus infection NS1 protein has several functions both in the nucleus and in the cytoplasm and its intracellular localization is regulated by one or two nuclear localization signals (NLS) and a nuclear export signal (NES).

Methods

In order to investigate the role of NS1 NES in intracellular localization, virus life cycle and host interferon responses, we generated recombinant A/Udorn/72 viruses harboring point mutations in the NES sequence.

Results

NS1 NES was found to be inactivated by several of the mutations resulting in nuclear retention of NS1 at late stages of infection confirming that this sequence is a bona fide functional NES. Some of the mutant viruses showed reduced growth properties in cell culture, inability to antagonize host cell interferon production and increased p-IRF3 levels, but no clear correlation between these phenotypes and NS1 localization could be made. Impaired activation of Akt phosphorylation by the replication-deficient viruses indicates possible disruption of NS1-p85β interaction by mutations in the NES region.

Conclusion

We conclude that mutations within the NS1 NES result in impairment of several NS1 functions which extends further from the NES site being only involved in regulating the nuclear-cytoplasmic trafficking of NS1.

Keywords:
NS1; NES; Influenza A virus