Characterization of Influenza:Streptococcus pneumoniae synergistic disease and potential for disease alleviation via sphingolipid therapy
Gasser, Amanda Lynn
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Influenza A virus (IAV) is generally associated with the seasonal malady that causes brief respiratory illness during the winter months, known simply as "the flu." Most otherwise healthy individuals will suffer from mild fever, congestion, headaches and myalgia that are resolved within 5-7 days of onset. However, there are nearly 500,000 influenza-related deaths that occur world-wide every year. Many of these casualties and patients hospitalized with influenza also test positive for bacterial pneumonia, the most common agent being Streptococcus pneumoniae. Although all individuals are subject to this viral:bacterial synergistic disease, the young, elderly, and immunocompromised are the most susceptible. Previous studies have shown that viral infection creates a prolonged hyper-responsive pro-inflammatory state in the lungs, which increases susceptibility to secondary bacterial infection. Lethality is due to detrimental pulmonary damage from a dysregulated host inflammatory response, known as the "cytokine storm." However, the nature of dual infection has not been well-studied in the elderly demographic. Therefore, we aim to better define this disease synergy in an aged mouse model and explore potential therapeutic alternatives that could be beneficial for the aged and other vulnerable populations. Sphingolipid modulation has emerged as a potential target to ameliorate the excessive inflammation (cytokine storm) elicited by highly pathogenic influenza. There is particular emphasis on sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) signaling, as well as control of intracellular S1P levels via sphingosine kinases (SK). Sphingolipids are involved in a multitude of cellular processes, and are tightly regulated by their metabolizing enzymes. We hypothesize that manipulation of sphingolipid signaling and alteration of the internal sphingolipid milieu will diminish the inflammatory response elicited by IAV infection. Using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), real-time PCR and cytometric bead array (CBA) analysis, we evaluated the immunomodulatory effects of systemic sphingosine analog treatment within the lung microenvironment under homeostatic and influenza-infected conditions. FTY720 treatment caused transient, but significant lymphopenia, influx of neutrophils and efflux of macrophages in the lungs, which was enhanced during a mild influenza infectionGene expression in the lungs was generally unaltered, but protein levels showed increases in specific influenza-induced cytokines, suggesting these treatments may have post-transcriptional effects on cytokine expression. To evaluate sphingolipid modulation in specific pulmonary cell types, we next observed the effects of these compounds and sphingosine kinase (SK) inhibitors in epithelial and alveolar macrophage-like cell lines. SK inhibitors and Enigmol demonstrated anti-viral effects in A549 cells, decreasing viral loads by up to 1.5 logs. Real-time PCR and CBA analysis further demonstrated that these effects were associated with alterations in key cytokine expression, including CCL2, CCL5, CXCL10, IL-6, and IL-8. Collectively, these findings indicate that therapeutic sphingolipid modulation has the potential for creating a protective microenvironment in the lungs that could alleviate or even prevent viral:bacterial synergistic disease.
- Masters Theses