Highly sensitive real-time in vivo imaging of an influenza reporter virus reveals dynamics of replication and spread

Tran V, Moser LA, Poole DS, Mehle A (2013). J. Virol. 87(24):13321-9.
PubMed Record

The continual public health threat posed by the emergence of novel influenza viruses necessitates the ability to rapidly monitor infection and spread in experimental systems. To analyze real-time infection dynamics, we have created a replication-competent influenza reporter virus suitable for in vivo imaging. The reporter virus encodes the small and bright NanoLuc luciferase whose activity serves as an extremely sensitive readout of viral infection. This virus stably maintains the reporter construct and replicates in culture and in mice with near-native properties. Bioluminescent imaging of the reporter virus permits serial observations of viral load and dissemination in infected animals, even following clearance of a sublethal challenge. We further show that the reporter virus recapitulates known restrictions due to host range and antiviral treatment, suggesting that this technology can be applied to studying emerging influenza viruses and the impact of antiviral interventions on infections in vivo. These results describe a generalizable method to quickly determine the replication and pathogenicity potential of diverse influenza strains in animals.

In vivo BLI

Longitudinal bioluminescence imaging shows a direct correlation between viral load (flux) and weight loss in infected mice.