Neutrophil dysfunction consequent to influenza A virus infection has been described in vivo and in vitro and may contribute to the serious bacterial sequelae which occur in influenza-infected hosts. On the premise that such dysfunction may represent a form of “deactivation,” we sought to characterize neutrophil activation by the virus in comparison with other agonists. The virus induces a respiratory burst in which H2O2 (but not O2-) are formed. Preceding the respiratory burst, a rise in intracellular calcium (Ca2+i) is noted, but both responses are nearly independent of extracellular Ca2+, unlike those elicited by the other well-characterized Ca2+-dependent agonists, formyl-methyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (FMLP), or Concanavalin-A (Con-A). The Ca2+ increase is paralleled by IP3 generation, implying that it is the result of phospholipase C (PLC) activation. The virus also elicits neutrophil membrane depolarization, which is independently mediated from the Ca2+ increase and respiratory burst and may reflect protein kinase C (PK-C) activation. Virus-induced responses are insensitive to pertussis toxin (PT); cholera toxin does inhibit these responses but in a nonspecific manner. Thus, although influenza virus activates PLC in neutrophils, it does so in a PT-insensitive manner and does not elicit or require a discernible Ca2+ influx to generate a respiratory burst response. In aggregate, the data indicate that influenza A virus activates neutrophils in a manner distinct from that of other well- described neutrophil agonists. These results illustrate the diversity of neutrophil activation mechanisms and support the notion that further characterization of this pathway may facilitate understanding of neutrophil dysfunction induced by the virus.

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