Infection of cultured human airway epithelial cells by influenza a virus

Theodore F. Reiss, Dieter C. Gruenert, Jay A. Nadel, David B. Jacoby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The lack of an adequate in vitro model has hampered study of the cellular basis by which influenza A virus causes disease in the human airway. We report in vitro infection of human airway epithelial cells by influenza A virus. Fetal and adult human tracheal and bronchial epithelial cells cultured from explants and SV40 transformed adult human tracheal epithelial cells were exposed to a recently isolated strain of influenza A virus (H1N1) and a laboratory passaged strain (WSN) of influenza A virus at similar multiplicity of infection. All cultures derived from explants showed hemadsorption (approximately 30% of the cells) with the H1N1 virus. No hemadsorption was detected with the WSN virus. One of two transformed cell lines showed a 5-10% hemadsorption to cells after H1N1 exposure and none following exposure to WSN. Immunoflourescent staining for influenza A-specific antigens in virus-exposed, explant-derived cells indicated viral infection and replication in these cells. Hemagglutinating material in the growth medium of infected, explant-derived cell lines, increased as a function of time, indicating the production of virus proteins. Exposure of rhesus monkey kidney cells and new human tracheal epithelial cultures to supernatant from these cells resulted in hemadsorption, indicating the presence of infectious virus in the supernatant. Light microscopic examination of virally infected bronchial epithelial cells demonstrated that the common types of cytopathic changes were rarely seen while cell proliferation continued over time. The data indicate that influenze A virus can infect, replicate, and produce infectious virus in cultured human tracheal and bronchial epithelial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1173-1181
Number of pages9
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number16
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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