BRD4 couples NF-κB/RelA with airway inflammation and the IRF-RIG-I amplification loop in respiratory syncytial virus infection

Bing Tian, Jun Yang, Yingxin Zhao, Teodora Ivanciuc, Hong Sun, Roberto P. Garofalo, Allan R. Brasier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The airway mucosa expresses protective interferon (IFN) and inflammatory cytokines in response to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. In this study, we examine the role of bromodomain containing 4 (BRD4) in mediating this innate immune response in human small airway epithelial cells. We observe that RSV induces BRD4 to complex with NF-κB/RelA. BRD4 is functionally required for expression of the NF-κBdependent inflammatory gene regulatory network (GRN), including the IFN response factor 1 (IRF1) and IRF7, which mediate a cross talk pathway for RIG-I upregulation. Mechanistically, BRD4 is required for cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) recruitment and phospho-Ser 2 carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) RNA polymerase (Pol) II formation on the promoters of IRF1, IRF7, and RIG-I, producing their enhanced expression by transcriptional elongation. We also find that BRD4 independently regulates CDK9/ phospho-Ser 2 CTD RNA Pol II recruitment to the IRF3-dependent IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). In vivo, poly(I·C)-induced neutrophilia and mucosal chemokine production are blocked by a small-molecule BRD4 bromodomain inhibitor. Similarly, BRD4 inhibition reduces RSV-induced neutrophilia, mucosal CXC chemokine expression, activation of the IRF7-RIG-I autoamplification loop, mucosal IFN expression, and airway obstruction. RSV infection activates BRD4 acetyltransferase activity on histone H3 Lys (K) 122, demonstrating that RSV infection activates BRD4 in vivo. These data validate BRD4 as a major effector of RSV-induced inflammation and disease. BRD4 is required for coupling NF-κB to expression of inflammatory genes and the IRF-RIG-I autoamplification pathway and independently facilitates antiviral ISG expression. BRD4 inhibition may be a strategy to reduce exuberant virus-induced mucosal airway inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00007-17
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2017


  • Acetylation
  • BRD4
  • CDK9
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pol II CTD
  • RSV
  • Transcriptional elongation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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