Human lung epithelial cells are likely among the first targets to encounter invading severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Not only can these cells support the growth of SARS-CoV infection, but they are also capable of secreting inflammatory cytokines to initiate and, eventually, aggravate host innate inflammatory responses, causing detrimental immune-mediated pathology within the lungs. Thus, a comprehensive evaluation of the complex epithelial signaling to SARS-CoV is crucial for paving the way to better understand SARS pathogenesis. Based on microarray-based functional genomics, we report here the global gene response of 2B4 cells, a cloned bronchial epithelial cell line derived from Calu-3 cells. Specifically, we found a temporal and spatial activation of nuclear factor (NF)κB, activator protein (AP)-1, and interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-3/7 in infected 2B4 cells at 12-, 24-, and 48-hrs post infection (p.i.), resulting in the activation of many antiviral genes, including interferon (IFN)-β, -λs, inflammatory mediators, and many IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). We also showed, for the first time, that IFN-β and IFN-λs were capable of exerting previously unrecognized, non-redundant, and complementary abilities to limit SARS-CoV replication, even though their expression could not be detected in infected 2B4 bronchial epithelial cells until 48 hrs p.i. Collectively, our results highlight the mechanics of the sequential events of antiviral signaling pathway/s triggered by SARS-CoV in bronchial epithelial cells and identify novel cellular targets for future studies, aiming at advancing strategies against SARS.
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