Rapid emergence of a PB2 D701N substitution during adaptation of an H9N2 avian influenza virus in mice

H9N2 avian influenza viruses (AIVs) have been isolated frequently from multiple avian species and, occasionally, from humans. To explore the potential molecular basis of cross-species transmission of H9N2 AIVs, an H9N2 AIV (A/chicken/Zhejiang/221/2016) was serially passaged in mouse lung. The results showed that the mouse-adapted H9N2 virus exhibited higher virulence and replicated more efficiently in mouse lung and liver. Whole-genome sequencing showed an amino acid substitution, D701N, in the PB2 protein, which is likely associated with the increased replicative ability of H9N2 virus in mice. The rapid emergence of adaptive substitutions indicates the necessity of continuous monitoring of H9N2 virus in poultry.