Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 34912340
Link to DOI – 10.3389/fimmu.2021.768189
Front Immunol 2021 ; 12(): 768189
There is considerable inter-individual and inter-population variability in response to viruses. The potential of monocytes to elicit type-I interferon responses has attracted attention to their role in viral infections. Here, we use single-cell RNA-sequencing to characterize the role of cellular heterogeneity in human variation of monocyte responses to influenza A virus (IAV) exposure. We show widespread inter-individual variability in the percentage of IAV-infected monocytes. Notably, individuals with high cellular susceptibility to IAV are characterized by a lower activation at basal state of an IRF/STAT-induced transcriptional network, which includes antiviral genes such as IFITM3, MX1 and OAS3. Upon IAV challenge, we find that cells escaping viral infection display increased mRNA expression of type-I interferon stimulated genes and decreased expression of ribosomal genes, relative to both infected cells and those never exposed to IAV. We also uncover a stronger resistance of CD16+ monocytes to IAV infection, together with CD16+ -specific mRNA expression of IL6 and TNF in response to IAV. Finally, using flow cytometry and bulk RNA-sequencing across 200 individuals of African and European ancestry, we observe a higher number of CD16 + monocytes and lower susceptibility to IAV infection among monocytes from individuals of African-descent. Based on these data, we hypothesize that higher basal monocyte activation, driven by environmental factors and/or weak-effect genetic variants, underlies the lower cellular susceptibility to IAV infection of individuals of African ancestry relative to those of European ancestry. Further studies are now required to investigate how such cellular differences in IAV susceptibility translate into population differences in clinical outcomes and susceptibility to severe influenza.