Influenza A virus (IAV) preferentially infects conducting airway and alveolar epithelial cells in the lung. The outcome of these infections is impacted by the host response, including the production of various cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors. Fibroblast growth factor-9 (FGF9) is required for lung development, can display antiviral activity in vitro, and is upregulated in asymptomatic patients during early IAV infection. We therefore hypothesized that FGF9 would protect the lungs from respiratory virus infection and evaluated IAV pathogenesis in mice that overexpress FGF9 in club cells in the conducting airway epithelium (FGF9-OE mice). However, we found that FGF9-OE mice were highly susceptible to IAV and Sendai virus infection compared to control mice. FGF9-OE mice displayed elevated and persistent viral loads, increased expression of cytokines and chemokines, and increased numbers of infiltrating immune cells as early as 1 day post-infection (dpi). Gene expression analysis showed an elevated type I interferon (IFN) signature in the conducting airway epithelium and analysis of IAV tropism uncovered a dramatic shift in infection from the conducting airway epithelium to the alveolar epithelium in FGF9-OE lungs. These results demonstrate that FGF9 signaling primes the conducting airway epithelium to rapidly induce a localized IFN and proinflammatory cytokine response during viral infection. Although this response protects the airway epithelial cells from IAV infection, it allows for early and enhanced infection of the alveolar epithelium, ultimately leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Our study illuminates a novel role for FGF9 in regulating respiratory virus infection and pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1010228
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Fibroblast growth factor-9 expression in airway epithelial cells amplifies the type I interferon response and alters influenza A virus pathogenesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this