Meng F, Yang H, Qu Z, Chen Y, Zhang Y, Zhang Y, Li. A Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza reassortant virus became pathogenic and highly transmissible due to mutations in its PA gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Aug 23;119(34):e220
Previous studies have shown that the Eurasian avian-like H1N1 (EA H1N1) swine influenza viruses circulated widely in pigs around the world and formed multiple genotypes by acquiring non-hemagglutinin and neuraminidase segments derived from other swine influenza viruses. Swine influenza control is not a priority for the pig industry in many countries, and it is worrisome that some strains may become more pathogenic and/or transmissible during their circulation in nature. Our routine surveillance indicated that the EA H1N1 viruses obtained different internal genes from different swine influenza viruses and formed various new genotypes. In this study, we found that a naturally isolated swine influenza reassortant, A/swine/Liaoning/265/2017 (LN265), a representative strain of one of the predominant genotypes in recent years, is lethal in mice and transmissible in ferrets. LN265 contains the hemagglutinin, neuraminidase, and matrix of the EA H1N1 virus; the basic polymerase 2, basic polymerase 1, acidic polymerase (PA), and nucleoprotein of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus; and the nonstructural protein of the North American triple-reassortment H1N2 virus. By generating and testing a series of reassortants and mutants, we found that four gradually accumulated mutations in PA are responsible for the increased pathogenicity and transmissibility of LN265. We further revealed that these mutations increase the messenger RNA transcription of viral proteins by enhancing the endonuclease cleavage activity and viral RNA-binding ability of the PA protein. Our study demonstrates that EA H1N1 swine influenza virus became pathogenic and transmissible in ferrets by acquiring key mutations in PA and provides important insights for monitoring field strains with pandemic potential.
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