Influenza virus-induced paracrine cellular senescence of the lung contributes to enhanced viral load.
Aging is a major risk factor associated with increased morbidity and mortality rates observed during respiratory infections. In this study, we investigated the role of influenza virus infections in the establishment of premature cellular senescence and paracrine macrophage-activated inflammation. We observed in our murine model a premature aging by the appearance of senescent cells in the lungs after 21 d of influenza A virus infection. By using murine ex vivo lung models, the influence of TNF-α on the establishment of cellular senescence was detectable. Our findings were proven by using conditioned media of infected human monocyte-derived macrophages on primary lung fibroblasts. Here, a distinct expression of senescence-associated parameters could be confirmed. Furthermore, senescent cells in the lungs strongly influenced subsequent viral infections. Our data demonstrated a higher viral load in senescent primary lung fibroblasts, indicating an intracellular effect on viral replication. Transcriptomic data revealed an increased regulation of JAK/STAT signaling in senescent IAV-infected cells accompanied with increased TRAIL expression. Additionally, senescent cells indicating low pH values, accelerating viral replication. Our study provides new insights into pathomechanisms of virus-induced cellular senescence. Hence, IAV infection induces premature senescence and subsequent infections in senescent cells lead to an increased viral replication.