Cigarette smokers are at increased risk of acquiring influenza, developing severe disease and requiring hospitalisation/intensive care unit admission following infection. However, immune mechanisms underlying this predisposition are incompletely understood, and therapeutic strategies for influenza are limited.
We used a mouse model of concurrent cigarette smoke exposure and H1N1 influenza infection, colony-stimulating factor (CSF)3 supplementation/receptor (CSF3R) blockade and single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) to investigate this relationship.
Cigarette smoke exposure exacerbated features of viral pneumonia such as oedema, hypoxaemia and pulmonary neutrophilia. Smoke-exposed infected mice demonstrated an increase in viral (v)RNA, but not replication-competent viral particles, relative to infection-only controls. Interstitial rather than airspace neutrophilia positively predicted morbidity in smoke-exposed infected mice. Screening of pulmonary cytokines using a novel dysregulation score identified an exacerbated expression of CSF3 and interleukin-6 in the context of smoke exposure and influenza. Recombinant (r)CSF3 supplementation during influenza aggravated morbidity, hypothermia and oedema, while anti-CSF3R treatment of smoke-exposed infected mice improved alveolar–capillary barrier function. scRNAseq delineated a shift in the distribution of
Csf3+ cells towards neutrophils in the context of cigarette smoke and influenza. However, although smoke-exposed lungs were enriched for infected, highly activated neutrophils, gene signatures of these cells largely reflected an exacerbated form of typical influenza with select unique regulatory features. Conclusion
This work provides novel insight into the mechanisms by which cigarette smoke exacerbates influenza infection, unveiling potential therapeutic targets (
e.g.excess vRNA accumulation, oedematous CSF3R signalling) for use in this context, and potential limitations for clinical rCSF3 therapy during viral infectious disease.