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 ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Separated entry and exit doors for calcium keep energy production smooth in the powerhouses of heart cells

September 18, 2018
Stress demands the heart to work harder and faster. To keep pace, the muscle must make its fuel at an accelerated rate. Bursts of calcium entering mitochondria—the cell's powerhouses—normally help control energy output, ...

First gut bacteria may have lasting effect on ability to fight chronic diseases

September 18, 2018
New research showing that the first bacteria introduced into the gut have a lasting impact may one day allow science to adjust microbiomes—the one-of-a-kind microbial communities that live in our gastrointestinal tracts—to ...

A new defender for your sense of smell

September 18, 2018
New research from the Monell Center increases understanding of a mysterious sensory cell located in the olfactory epithelium, the patch of nasal tissue that contains odor-detecting olfactory receptor cells. The findings suggest ...

Small molecule plays big role in weaker bones as we age

September 18, 2018
With age, expression of a small molecule that can silence others goes way up while a key signaling molecule that helps stem cells make healthy bone goes down, scientists report.

Sperm quality study updates advice for couples trying to conceive

September 17, 2018
Could doctors at fertility clinics be giving men bad advice? Dr. Da Li and Dr. XiuXia Wang, who are clinician-researchers at the Center for Reproductive Medicine of Shengjing Hospital in Shenyang in northeast China, think ...

Antioxidant found to be effective in treating mice with osteoarthritis

September 14, 2018
A team of researchers in Belgium and the Netherlands has found that feeding a common antioxidant to test mice was effective in treating osteoarthritis. In their paper published in Science Translational Medicine, the group ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Anonym176576
1 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2018
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis approximately 10 years ago. I woke up one morning and was in so much pain I took half hour to get out of bed. I couldn't sit and if I fell onto a chair I couldn't get myself up again. I have been on all the medications available as well as having the needle jabs in my knees and shoulders. Thank God for leading me to BEST HEALTH HERBAL CENTRE,.Now am RA free,...

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.