Exosomes (membrane-derived vesicles) enable intracellular communication by delivering lipids, proteins, DNA, and RNA from one cell to another. Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) H5N1 causes considerable economic loss in the poultry industry and poses a public health concern. The host innate immune system defends against H5N1 infection by activating antiviral immune responses. This study aimed to demonstrated that immunomodulatory effects of exosomes from HPAIV H5N1-infected White Leghorn chickens on chicken macrophages, fibroblasts, T cell, and B cell lines. The expression of type I interferons (IFN-α and -β) were highly upregulated in immune-related cell lines after treatment with exosomes derived from H5N1-infected chickens. Levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as IFN-γ, IL-1β, and CXCL8, were also elevated by the exosomes. The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway was stimulated in immune-related cells by such exosomes via phosphorylation of extracellular regulated kinases 1/2 and p38 signaling molecules. Furthermore, the H5N1 viral proteins, nucleoprotein (NP) and non-structural protein (NS1), were packaged in exosomes and successfully transferred to non-infected immune-related cells. Therefore, exosomes from H5N1-infected chickens induced pro-inflammatory cytokine expression and stimulated the MAPK signaling pathway by delivering key viral proteins. These findings would aid better understanding of the mechanism underlying the modulation of antiviral immune responses of host immune-related cells by viral-protein-carrying exosomes and support their further application as a novel exosome-based H5N1 AIV vaccine platform.
Keywords : Avian influenza virus, H5N1, Exosome, Immune cell, MAPK signaling Pathway