Drosophila RNAi screen identifies host genes important for influenza virus replication

Linhui Hao, Akira Sakurai, Tokiko Watanabe, Ericka Sorensen, Chairul A. Nidom, Michael A. Newton, Paul Ahlquist, Yoshihiro Kawaoka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

365 Citations (Scopus)


All viruses rely on host cell proteins and their associated mechanisms to complete the viral life cycle. Identifying the host molecules that participate in each step of virus replication could provide valuable new targets for antiviral therapy, but this goal may take several decades to achieve with conventional forward genetic screening methods and mammalian cell cultures. Here we describe a novel genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi) screen in Drosophila that can be used to identify host genes important for influenza virus replication. After modifying influenza virus to allow infection of Drosophila cells and detection of influenza virus gene expression, we tested an RNAi library against 13,071 genes (90% of the Drosophila genome), identifying over 100 for which suppression in Drosophila cells significantly inhibited or stimulated reporter gene (Renilla luciferase) expression from an influenza-virus-derived vector. The relevance of these findings to influenza virus infection of mammalian cells is illustrated for a subset of the Drosophila genes identified; that is, for three implicated Drosophila genes, the corresponding human homologues ATP6V0D1, COX6A1 and NXF1 are shown to have key functions in the replication of H5N1 and H1N1 influenza A viruses, but not vesicular stomatitis virus or vaccinia virus, in human HEK 293 cells. Thus, we have demonstrated the feasibility of using genome-wide RNAi screens in Drosophila to identify previously unrecognized host proteins that are required for influenza virus replication. This could accelerate the development of new classes of antiviral drugs for chemoprophylaxis and treatment, which are urgently needed given the obstacles to rapid development of an effective vaccine against pandemic influenza and the probable emergence of strains resistant to available drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-893
Number of pages4
Issue number7206
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2008


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