Liu L, Li Z, Zhou J, Lu J, Li X, Liu J, Xiao N, Wa. The effect of single amino acid substitution at position 220 in the hemagglutinin glycoprotein on avian influenza H7N9 candidate vaccine virus. Virus Genes. 2021 Feb 19
Influenza vaccines represent the most effective preventive strategy to control influenza virus infections; however, adaptive mutations frequently occur in the hemagglutinin (HA) glycoprotein during the preparation of candidate vaccine virus and production of vaccine in embryonated eggs. In our previous study, we constructed candidate vaccine virus (HA-R) to match the highly pathogenic avian influenza H7N9 viruses A/Guangdong/17SF003/2016 as part of a pandemic preparedness program. However, mixed amino acids (R, G, and I) were presented at position 220 (H3 numbering) in HA during passage in embryonated eggs. The residue at position 220 is located close to the receptor-binding site and the biological characteristics of this site remain to be elucidated. Therefore, in this study, using reverse genetics, we constructed two viruses carrying the single substitution in position 220 of HA (HA-G and HA-I) and evaluated the biological effects of substitution (R with G/I) on receptor binding, neuraminidase (NA) activity, growth characteristics, genetic stability, and antigenicity. The results revealed both mutant viruses exhibited lower HA binding affinities to two receptor types (sialic acid in alpha2,3- and alpha2,6-linkage to galactose, P < 0.001) and significant better growth characteristics compared to HA-R in two cells. Moreover, under similar NA enzymatic activity, the two mutant viruses eluted more easily from agglutinated erythrocytes than HA-R. Collectively, these results implied the balance of HA and NA in mutant viruses was a stronger determinant of viral growth than the individual amino acid in the HA position 220 in HA-R without strong binding between HA and sialylated receptors. Importantly, both the substitutions conferred altered antigenicity to the mutant viruses. In conclusion, amino acid substitutions at position 220 can substantially influence viral biological properties.
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