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J Virol. 1995 Aug; 69(8): 4888–4897.
PMCID: PMC189303

Selection of a single amino acid substitution in the hemagglutinin molecule by chicken eggs can render influenza A virus (H3) candidate vaccine ineffective.


This study investigated whether a single amino acid change in the hemagglutinin (HA) molecule influenced the efficacy of formalin-inactivated influenza A (H3N1) vaccine candidates derived from high-growth reassortants between the standard donor of high-yield genes (A/PR/8/34 [H1N1]) and host cell variants generated from the same clinical isolate (A/Memphis/7/90 [H3N2]) by passage in embryonated chicken eggs. Two clones of the isolate generated by growth in eggs differed from the parent virus (represented by an MDCK cell-grown counterpart) solely by the presence of Lys (instead of Glu) at position 156 or Ile (instead of Ser) at position 186 in the HA1 subunit. The protective efficacy of egg-grown HA Lys-156 and HA Ile-186 reassortant variants was compared with that of the MDCK cell-grown reassortant vaccine. Classically, antibody titers in serum have been used to demonstrate vaccine efficacy. Here, parameters of B-cell responsiveness were monitored, including the kinetics, character, and localization of the primary antibody-forming cell (AFC) response and the development of B-cell memory in lymphoid tissues associated with the priming site (spleen) and responsive to pulmonary challenge with infectious virus (upper and lower respiratory tract lymph nodes). We show that the egg-grown HA Lys-156 variant induced an AFC profile vastly different from that elicited by the other two reassortant vaccines. The vaccine was poorly immunogenic; it induced antibodies that were cross-reactive prior to challenge but which, postchallenge with a lethal dose of the MDCK cell-grown reassortant virus, were targeted primarily to the HA Lys-156 variant, were of the immunoglobulin M isotype, were nonprotective, and were derived from the spleen. In contrast, the egg-grown HA Ile-186 variant was remarkably like the MDCK cell-grown virus in that protective immunoglobulin G antibodies were unaffected by the Ile-186 substitution but poorly recognized HA with Lys-156. Furthermore, memory AFC responsiveness was localized to regional lymphoid tissue in the upper respiratory tract, where challenge HA was found. Thus, it is recommended that in the selection of vaccine candidates, virus populations with the egg-adapted HA Lys-156 substitution be eliminated and that, instead, egg-grown isolates which minimally contain Ile-186 be used as logical alternatives to MDCK cell-grown viruses.

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