How the influenza virus triggers the inflammasome, an essential component in a host's defense against this the virus, is reported in a paper appearing online this week in Nature Immunology. These findings may aid in our ability to design effective interventions and treatments for the influenza virus infection.
Akiko Iwasaki and colleagues showed that the influenza virus M2 protein ― an ion channel previously shown to be important for influenza virus pathogenesis ― stimulates the inflammasome pathway. M2 channel activity was both necessary and sufficient for influenza activation of inflammasomes. Furthermore, M2-mediated inflammasome activation required its localization to the Golgi body organelle within the cell.
Future research will be required to see if other viruses use similar ion channels to activate the inflammasome.