Patients with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection exhibit enhanced susceptibility to subsequent pneumococcal infections. However, the underlying mechanisms involved in this increased susceptibility remain unclear. Here, we identified potentially novel cellular and molecular cascades triggered by RSV infection to exacerbate secondary pneumococcal pneumonia. RSV infection stimulated the local production of growth arrest–specific 6 (Gas6). The Gas6 receptor Axl was crucial for attenuating pneumococcal immunity in that the Gas6/Axl blockade fully restored antibacterial immunity. Mechanistically, Gas6/Axl interaction regulated the conversion of alveolar macrophages from an antibacterial phenotype to an M2-like phenotype that did not exhibit antibacterial activity, and the attenuation of caspase-1 activation and IL-18 production in response to pneumococcal infection. The attenuated IL-18 production failed to drive both NK cell–mediated IFN-γ production and local NO and TNF-α production, which impair the control of bacterial infection. Hence, the RSV-mediated Gas6/Axl activity attenuates the macrophage-mediated protection against pneumococcal infection. The Gas6/Axl axis could be a potentially novel therapeutic target for RSV-associated secondary bacterial infection.
Takehiko Shibata, Airi Makino, Ruiko Ogata, Shigeki Nakamura, Toshihiro Ito, Kisaburo Nagata, Yoshihiko Terauchi, Taku Oishi, Mikiya Fujieda, Yoshimasa Takahashi, Manabu Ato