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J Virol. Mar 1996; 70(3): 1818–1827.
PMCID: PMC190009

Characterization of mutants of influenza A virus selected with the neuraminidase inhibitor 4-guanidino-Neu5Ac2en.


The development of viral resistance to the neuraminidase (NA) inhibitor, 4-guanidino-Neu5Ac2en, of influenza viruses was studied by serial passage of A/Turkey/Minnesota/833/80 (H4N2) in Madin-Darby canine kidney cells in the presence of increasing concentrations of inhibitor. Resistant mutants selected after eight passages, had a 10,000-fold reduction in sensitivity to the inhibitor in plaque assays, but their affinity (1/Kd) to the inhibitor was similar to that of the parental virus. Electron microscopic analysis revealed aggregation of the mutant virus at the cell surface in the presence of the inhibitor. Sequence analysis established that a substitution had occurred in the NA (Arg-249 to Lys) and in the HA2 subunit of the hemagglutinin (Gly-75 to Glu), in the vicinity of the proposed second sialic acid binding site. The change of residue 249 appears to be a chance mutation, for we were unable to reisolate this mutant, whereas subsequent experiments indicate changes in the hemagglutinin. After 13 passages of the parental virus, mutants that were resistant to the high concentrations of inhibitor tested were obtained. These viruses retained their drug-resistant phenotype even after five passages without the inhibitor. Electron microscopic analysis revealed no aggregation of virus on the surface of infected cells in the presence of the inhibitor. Sequence analysis of the NA gene from these drug-resistant mutants revealed an additional substitution of Glu to Ala at the conserved amino acid residue 119. This substitution is responsible for reducing the affinity of the inhibitor to the NA. Our findings suggest that the emergence of mutants resistant to 4-guanidine-Neu5Ac2en is a multistep process requiring prolonged exposure to the inhibitor.

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Selected References

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