Differentiated human airway organoids to assess infectivity of emerging influenza virus

Jie Zhou, Cun Li, Norman Sachs, Man Chun Chiu, Bosco Ho-Yin Wong, Hin Chu, Vincent Kwok-Man Poon, Dong Wang, Xiaoyu Zhao, Lei Wen, Wenjun Song, Shuofeng Yuan, Kenneth Kak-Yuen Wong, Jasper Fuk-Woo Chan, Kelvin Kai-Wang To, Honglin Chen, Hans Clevers, Kwok-Yung Yuen

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

183 Citations (Scopus)


Novel reassortant avian influenza H7N9 virus and pandemic 2009 H1N1 (H1N1pdm) virus cause human infections, while avian H7N2 and swine H1N1 virus mainly infect birds and pigs, respectively. There is no robust in vitro model for assessing the infectivity of emerging viruses in humans. Based on a recently established method, we generated long-term expanding 3D human airway organoids which accommodate four types of airway epithelial cells: ciliated, goblet, club, and basal cells. We report differentiation conditions which increase ciliated cell numbers to a nearly physiological level with synchronously beating cilia readily discernible in every organoid. In addition, the differentiation conditions induce elevated levels of serine proteases, which are essential for productive infection of human influenza viruses and low-pathogenic avian influenza viruses. We also established improved 2D monolayer culture conditions for the differentiated airway organoids. To demonstrate the ability of differentiated airway organoids to identify human-infective virus, 3D and 2D differentiated airway organoids are applied to evaluate two pairs of viruses with known distinct infectivity in humans, H7N9/Ah versus H7N2 and H1N1pdm versus an H1N1 strain isolated from swine (H1N1sw). The human-infective H7N9/Ah virus replicated more robustly than the poorly human-infective H7N2 virus; the highly human-infective H1N1pdm virus replicated to a higher titer than the counterpart H1N1sw. Collectively, we developed differentiated human airway organoids which can morphologically and functionally simulate human airway epithelium. These differentiated airway organoids can be applied for rapid assessment of the infectivity of emerging respiratory viruses to human.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6822-6827
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2018


  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype/growth & development
  • Influenza A Virus, H7N2 Subtype/growth & development
  • Influenza, Human
  • Organoids/pathology
  • Respiratory System/pathology


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