Increased virulence of a novel reassortant H1N3 avian influenza virus in mice as a result of adaptive amino acid substitutions

In this study, a novel multiple-gene reassortant H1N3 subtype avian influenza virus (AIV) (A/chicken/Zhejiang/81213/2017, CK81213) was isolated in Eastern China, whose genes were derived from H1 (H1N3), H7 (H7N3 and H7N9), and H10 (H10N3 and H10N8) AIVs. This AIV belongs to the avian Eurasian-lineage and exhibits low pathogenicity. Serial lung-to-lung passages of CK81213 in mice was performed to study the amino acid substitutions potentially related to the adaptation of H1 AIVs in mammals. And the mouse-adapted H1N3 virus showed greater virulence than wild-type H1N3 AIV in mice and the genomic analysis revealed a total of two amino acid substitutions in the PB2 (E627K) and HA (L67V) proteins. Additionally, the results of the animal study indicate that CK81213 could infect mice without prior adaption and become highly pathogenic to mice after continuous passage. Our findings show that routine surveillance of H1 AIVs is important for the prediction of influenza epidemics.