The virulent influenza virus clone 7a produced a greater level of apoptosis in MDCK cells compared with the attenuated strain A/Fiji. In both cases, apoptosis could be partially blocked by treatment with three anti-neuraminidase compounds [4-amino-(GR121158A) and 4-guanidino- (GG167; Zanamivir) 2,3-dehydro-N-acetylneuraminic acid and 2,3-dehydro-2-deoxy-N-acetylneuraminic acid (DANA)] when they were given to cells during the virus attachment/entry phase, but not subsequent to this phase. In contrast, GG167, which does not enter cells, did not affect the numbers of infected cells and, in addition, acted late in the infection cycle to inhibit virus yields. Clone 7a neuraminidase was more active than A/Fiji neuraminidase when fetuin was used as the substrate. Similar differences in activity between the two viruses were seen when alpha-2,6 sialyl lactose was used as a substrate, but not with alpha-2,3 sialyl lactose. No sequence differences in the enzyme active site of the two neuraminidases were observed, indicating that differences in neuraminidase specificity and activity may be dictated by other residues. These results suggest that neuraminidase plays some role in the induction of apoptosis and that it acts prior to or during virus entry. However, apoptosis was considerably reduced when UV-irradiated virus, which retains >75% of its neuraminidase activity, was used. In addition, ammonium chloride, used to prevent virus entry, reduced virus-induced apoptosis. Amantadine, which inhibits virus uncoating, also inhibited apoptosis induced by the amantadine-sensitive strain A/Udorn/307/72 (H3N2), but not the amantadine-resistant clone 7a. Hence, one or more intracellular processes are also involved in influenza virus-induced apoptosis.


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