Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Lack of the pattern recognition molecule mannose-binding lectin increases susceptibility to influenza A virus infection

Wei-Chuan Chang1, Mitchell R White2, Patience Moyo1, Sheree McClear1, Steffen Thiel3, Kevan L Hartshorn2 and Kazue Takahashi1*

Author Affiliations

1 Program of Developmental Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA

2 Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA02118, USA

3 Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Aarhus University, DK-8000 Aarhus, Denmark

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Immunology 2010, 11:64  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-64

Published: 23 December 2010



Mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a pattern recognition innate immune molecule, inhibits influenza A virus infection in vitro. MBL deficiency due to gene polymorphism in humans has been associated with infection susceptibility. These clinical observations were confirmed by animal model studies, in which mice genetically lacking MBL were susceptible to certain pathogens, including herpes simplex virus 2.


We demonstrate that MBL is present in the lung of naïve healthy wild type (WT) mice and that MBL null mice are more susceptible to IAV infection. Administration of recombinant human MBL (rhMBL) reverses the infection phenotype, confirming that the infection susceptibility is MBL-mediated. The anti-viral mechanisms of MBL include activation of the lectin complement pathway and coagulation, requiring serum factors. White blood cells (WBCs) in the lung increase in WT mice compared with MBL null mice on day 1 post-infection. In contrast, apoptotic macrophages (MΦs) are two-fold higher in the lung of MBL null mice compared with WT mice. Furthermore, MBL deficient macrophages appear to be susceptible to apoptosis in vitro. Lastly, soluble factors, which are associated with lung injury, are increased in the lungs of MBL null mice during IAV infection. These results suggest that MBL plays a key role against IAV infection.


MBL plays a key role in clearing IAV and maintaining lung homeostasis. In addition, our findings also suggest that MBL deficiency maybe a risk factor in IAV infection and MBL may be a useful adjunctive therapy for IAV infection.