Plasticity of the Influenza Virus H5 HA Protein.

Affiliation

Kong H(1), Burke DF(2), da Silva Lopes TJ(1), Takada K(3), Imai M(3), Zhong G(1), Hatta M(1), Fan S(1), Chiba S(1), Smith D(2), Neumann G(1), Kawaoka Y(4)(3)(5).
Author information:
(1)Influenza Research Institute, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
(2)Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
(3)Division of Virology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.
(4)Influenza Research Institute, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA [Email]
(5)International Research Center for Infectious Diseases, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.

Abstract

Since the emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5 subtype, the major viral antigen, hemagglutinin (HA), has undergone constant evolution, resulting in numerous genetic and antigenic (sub)clades. To explore the consequences of amino acid changes at sites that may affect the antigenicity of H5 viruses, we simultaneously mutated 17 amino acid positions of an H5 HA by using a synthetic gene library that, theoretically, encodes all combinations of the 20 amino acids at the 17 positions. All 251 mutant viruses sequenced possessed ≥13 amino acid substitutions in HA, demonstrating that the targeted sites can accommodate a substantial number of mutations. Selection with ferret sera raised against H5 viruses of different clades resulted in the isolation of 39 genotypes. Further analysis of seven variants demonstrated that they were antigenically different from the parental virus and replicated efficiently in mammalian cells. Our data demonstrate the substantial plasticity of the influenza virus H5 HA protein, which may lead to novel antigenic variants.IMPORTANCE The HA protein of influenza A viruses is the major viral antigen. In this study, we simultaneously introduced mutations at 17 amino acid positions of an H5 HA expected to affect antigenicity. Viruses with ≥13 amino acid changes in HA were viable, and some had altered antigenic properties. H5 HA can therefore accommodate many mutations in regions that affect antigenicity. The substantial plasticity of H5 HA may facilitate the emergence of novel antigenic variants.