Protective role of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 against respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus infections

Teodora Ivanciuc, Elena Sbrana, Antonella Casola, Roberto P. Garofalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The pathogenesis of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections is characterized by lower airway obstruction driven at great extent by the exuberant production of inflammatory cytokines. We have previously shown that RSV infection in vitro and in vivo results in production of reactive oxygen species along with reduction in the expression of antioxidant enzymes (AOEs), which are involved in maintaining the cellular oxidant-antioxidant balance. These events were associated with the concomitant reduction in nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a key transcription factor that controls AOE expression. The objective of the current study was to establish the role of Nrf2 in shaping innate immune responses, clinical disease, airway inflammation, and viral replication in established experimental models of intranasal RSV and human metapneumovirus (hMPV) infections, by employing mice genetically deficient for the Nrf2 gene. Compared to control wild type (WT), mice genetically deficient in Nrf2 (Nrf2 KO) developed enhanced clinical disease, airway inflammation and pathology, and significantly greater lung viral titers following experimental infection with either RSV or hMPV. In particular, compared to control mice, RSV-infected Nrf2 KO mice lost more body weight and had increased airway obstruction at time points characterized by a remarkable increase in inflammatory cytokines and airway neutrophilia. Airway levels of AOEs and enzymes that regulate synthesis of the endogenous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) pathway, which we showed to play an important antiviral function, were also decreased in RSV-infected Nrf2 KO compared to WT. In conclusion, these results suggest that Nrf2 is a critical regulator of innate, inflammatory, and disease-associated responses in the airways of mice infected with viruses that are members of the Pneumoviridae family. Importantly, the results of this study suggest that Nrf2-dependent genes, including those controlling the cellular antioxidant and H2S-generating enzymes and cytokines can affect several aspects of the antiviral response, such as airway neutrophilia, clinical disease, airway obstruction, and viral replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number854
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberAPR
StatePublished - Apr 23 2018


  • Airway inflammation
  • Airway obstruction
  • Antioxidant enzymes
  • Human metapneumovirus
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Lung injury
  • Nuclear factor erythroid 2 related factor 2
  • Respiratory syncytial virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Protective role of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 against respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus infections'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this