Network-Guided Discovery of Influenza Virus Replication Host Factors


The position of host factors required for viral replication within a human protein-protein interaction (PPI) network can be exploited to identify drug targets that are robust to drug-mediated selective pressure. Host factors can physically interact with viral proteins, be a component of virus-regulated pathways (where proteins do not interact with viral proteins) or be required for viral replication but unregulated by viruses. Here, we demonstrate a method of combining human PPI networks with virus-host PPI data to improve antiviral drug discovery for influenza viruses by identifying target host proteins. Analysis shows that influenza virus proteins physically interact with host proteins in network positions significant for information flow, even after the removal of known abundance-degree bias within PPI data. We have isolated a subnetwork of the human PPI network which connects virus-interacting host proteins to host factors that are important for influenza virus replication without physically interacting with viral proteins. The subnetwork is enriched for signaling and immune processes distinct from those associated with virus-interacting proteins. Selecting proteins based on subnetwork topology, we performed an siRNA screen to determine if the subnetwork was enriched for virus replication host factors and if network position within the subnetwork offers an advantage in prioritization of drug targets to control influenza virus replication. We found that the subnetwork is highly enriched for target host proteins – more so than the set of host factors that physically interact with viral proteins. Our findings demonstrate that network positions are a powerful predictor to guide antiviral drug candidate prioritization.

Emily E. Ackerman
Emily E. Ackerman
Ph.D. Candidate

Sixth year Ph.D candidate in Chemical Engineering looking toward a future professorship with special interest in the advancement of underrepresented groups