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Recognition of influenza A virus (IAV) by the innate immune system triggers pathways that restrict viral replication, activate innate immune cells, and regulate adaptive immunity. However, excessive innate immune activation can exaggerate disease. The pathways promoting excessive activation are incompletely understood, with limited experimental models to investigate the mechanisms driving influenza virus-induced inflammation in humans. Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) is a transcription factor that plays important roles in the induction of cytokines after viral sensing. In an in vivo model of IAV infection, IRF5 deficiency reduced IAV-driven immune pathology and associated inflammatory cytokine production, specifically reducing cytokine-producing myeloid cell populations in Irf5-/- mice but not impacting type 1 interferon (IFN) production or virus replication. Using cytometry by time of flight (CyTOF), we identified that human lung IRF5 expression was highest in cells of the myeloid lineage. To investigate the role of IRF5 in mediating human inflammatory responses by myeloid cells to IAV, we employed human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSCs) with biallelic mutations in IRF5, demonstrating for the first time that induced pluripotent stem cell-derived dendritic cells (iPS-DCs) with biallelic mutations can be used to investigate the regulation of human virus-induced immune responses. Using this technology, we reveal that IRF5 deficiency in human DCs, or macrophages, corresponded with reduced virus-induced inflammatory cytokine production, with IRF5 acting downstream of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) and, possibly, retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) after viral sensing. Thus, IRF5 acts as a regulator of myeloid cell inflammatory cytokine production during IAV infection in mice and humans and drives immune-mediated viral pathogenesis independently of type 1 IFN and virus replication.IMPORTANCE The inflammatory response to influenza A virus (IAV) participates in infection control but contributes to disease severity. After viral detection, intracellular pathways are activated, initiating cytokine production, but these pathways are incompletely understood. We show that interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) mediates IAV-induced inflammation and, in mice, drives pathology. This was independent of antiviral type 1 IFN and virus replication, implying that IRF5 could be specifically targeted to treat influenza virus-induced inflammation. We show for the first time that human iPSC technology can be exploited in genetic studies of virus-induced immune responses. Using this technology, we deleted IRF5 in human myeloid cells. These IRF5-deficient cells exhibited impaired influenza virus-induced cytokine production and revealed that IRF5 acts downstream of Toll-like receptor 7 and possibly retinoic acid-inducible gene I. Our data demonstrate the importance of IRF5 in influenza virus-induced inflammation, suggesting that genetic variation in the IRF5 gene may influence host susceptibility to viral diseases.

Original publication




Journal article


J Virol

Publication Date





IRF5, dendritic cells, iPSCs, inflammation, influenza