Fighting the cold virus and other threats, body makes trade-off, says study

September 11, 2018, Yale University
A representation of the molecular surface of one variant of human rhinovirus. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

A Yale research team has revealed how cells in different parts of the human airway vary in their response to the common cold virus. Their finding, published in Cell Reports, could help solve the mystery of why some people exposed to the cold virus get ill while others don't, said the researchers.

Rhinovirus is a leading cause of the common cold, asthma attacks, and other respiratory illnesses. When the enters the nose, that line the airways, known as , respond and often clear the virus before it can replicate and trigger symptoms. But in other cases, individuals exposed to the virus get either mildly or seriously ill. A team of researchers, led by Ellen Foxman, set out to determine why.

The research team used epithelial cells from healthy human donors. The cells were derived from either the nasal passages or the lungs. They exposed both cell types, maintained under the same conditions in cell culture, to rhinovirus. To their surprise, the researchers observed a more robust in nasal cells.

To investigate further, the researchers triggered the virus surveillance pathway—known as the RIG-I pathway—in both nasal and lung cells. They found that both generated an antiviral response and a defense response against , a form of cell damage induced by viruses and other inhaled irritants such as or tree pollen. In nasal cells, the antiviral response was stronger, but in bronchial cells, defense against oxidative stress was more pronounced.

In additional experiments, the research team found evidence for a tradeoff: The defense response against oxidative stress shut off antiviral defenses. To probe this further, the team exposed nasal cells to oxidative stress in the form of cigarette smoke, and then to the cold virus, and found that the nasal cells were more susceptible to the virus. "They survive the cigarette smoke but can't fight the virus as well," Foxman said. "And the virus grows better."

This finding points to a delicate balance between the body's different defense mechanisms, Foxman said. "Your airway lining protects against viruses but also other harmful substances that enter airways. The airway does pretty well if it encounters one stressor at a time. But when there are two different stressors, there's a tradeoff," Foxman explained. "What we found is that when your airway is trying to deal with another stress type, it can adapt but the cost is susceptibility to rhinovirus infection."

The study, she said, shows a mechanistic link between environmental exposures and susceptibility to the common cold, and also may explain why smokers tend to be more susceptible to rhinovirus infection. The researchers hope the finding will lead to the discovery of new strategies to combat respiratory viruses, which cause an estimated 500 million colds and 2 million hospitalizations in the United States per year.

Explore further: Cold virus replicates better at cooler temperatures

More information: Cell Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.08.033

Related Stories

Cold virus replicates better at cooler temperatures

January 5, 2015
The common cold virus can reproduce itself more efficiently in the cooler temperatures found inside the nose than at core body temperature, according to a new Yale-led study. This finding may confirm the popular yet contested ...

New test shows when body is fighting a virus

December 21, 2017
A new test that measures RNA or protein molecules in human cells can accurately identify viral infection as a cause of respiratory symptoms, according to a Yale study. Performed with a simple nasal swab, the test could prove ...

Warmer body temperature puts the heat on the common cold

July 11, 2016
A new Yale study reveals how body temperature affects the immune system's response to the common cold virus. The research, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may provide additional strategies ...

Genetic screening tool identifies how the flu infiltrates cells

April 10, 2018
Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed a genetic screening tool that identified two key factors that allow the influenza virus to infect human lung cells. The technique uses new gene editing tools to create ...

Scientists identify receptor for asthma-associated virus

April 6, 2015
Scientists funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, have identified a cellular receptor for rhinovirus C, a cold-causing virus that is strongly ...

First comprehensive genomic study of common cold reveals new treatment targets

October 24, 2008
Today, scientists from Procter & Gamble (P&G), the University of Calgary and the University of Virginia announced results from the first study to examine the entire human genome's response to the most common cold virus, ...

Recommended for you

New inflammation inhibitor discovered

November 16, 2018
A multidisciplinary team of researchers led from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed an anti-inflammatory drug molecule with a new mechanism of action. By inhibiting a certain protein, the researchers were able ...

Gut hormone and brown fat interact to tell the brain it's time to stop eating

November 15, 2018
Researchers from Germany and Finland have shown that so-called "brown fat" interacts with the gut hormone secretin in mice to relay nutritional signals about fullness to the brain during a meal. The study, appearing November ...

Brain, muscle cells found lurking in kidney organoids grown in lab

November 15, 2018
Scientists hoping to develop better treatments for kidney disease have turned their attention to growing clusters of kidney cells in the lab. One day, so-called organoids—grown from human stem cells—may help repair damaged ...

How the Tasmanian devil inspired researchers to create 'safe cell' therapies

November 15, 2018
A contagious facial cancer that has ravaged Tasmanian devils in southern Australia isn't the first place one would look to find the key to advancing cell therapies in humans.

Researchers discover important connection between cells in the liver

November 15, 2018
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have made a discovery which could lead to a new way of thinking about how disease pathogenesis in the liver is regulated, which is important for understanding the condition ...

Precision neuroengineering enables reproduction of complex brain-like functions in vitro

November 14, 2018
One of the most important and surprising traits of the brain is its ability to dynamically reconfigure the connections to process and respond properly to stimuli. Researchers from Tohoku University (Sendai, Japan) and the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.