Regular ArticleHemagglutinin Residues of Recent Human A(H3N2) Influenza Viruses That Contribute to the Inability to Agglutinate Chicken Erythrocytes
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AbstractTo identify the molecular determinants contributing to the inability of recent human influenza A(H3N2) viruses to agglutinate chicken erythrocytes, phenotypic revertants were selected upon passage in eggs or MDCK cells. The Leu194Ile or Val226Ile substitutions were detected in their hemagglutinin (HA) sequence concomitantly with the phenotypic reversion. Remarkably, as little as 3.5% of variants bearing a Val226Ile substitution was found to confer the ability to agglutinate chicken erythrocytes to the virus population. Hemadsorption assays following transient expression of mutated HA proteins showed that the successive Gln226 → Leu → Ile → Val changes observed on natural isolates resulted in a progressive loss of the ability of the HA to bind chicken erythrocytes. The Val226Ile change maintained the preference of the HA for SAα2,6Gal over SAα2,3Gal and enhanced binding of the HA to α2,6Gal receptors present on chicken erythrocytes. In contrast, simultaneous Ser193Arg and Leu194Ile substitutions that were found to confer the ability to agglutinate sheep erythrocytes increased the affinity of the HA for SAα2,3Gal.

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