The NS1 protein of H5N6 feline influenza virus inhibits feline beta interferon response by preventing NF-κB and IRF3 activation
Despite the apparent lack of a feline influenza virus lineage, cats are susceptible to infection by influenza A viruses. Here, we characterized in vitro A/feline/Guangdong/1/2015, an H5N6 avian influenza virus recently isolated from cats. A/feline/Guangdong/1/2015 replicated to high titers and caused CPE in feline kidney cells. We determined that infection with A/feline/Guangdong/1/2015 did not activate the IFN-β promoter, but inhibited it by blocking the activation of NF-κB and IRF3. We also determined that the viral NS1 protein mediated the block, and that the dsRNA binding domain of NS1 was essential to perform this function. In contrast to treatment after infection, cells pretreated with IFN-β suppressed viral replication. Our findings provide an example of an H5N6 influenza virus suppressing IFN production, which might be associated with interspecies transmission of avian influenza viruses to cats.