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J Virol. 2000 Aug;74(15):6800-7.

Antigenic drift in the influenza A virus (H3N2) nucleoprotein and escape from recognition by cytotoxic T lymphocytes.

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  • 1Institute of Virology and WHO National Influenza Centre, Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, 3015 GE Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Viruses exploit different strategies to escape immune surveillance, including the introduction of mutations in cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes. The sequence of these epitopes is critical for their binding to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules and recognition by specific CTLs, both of which interactions may be lost by mutation. Sequence analysis of the nucleoprotein gene of influenza A viruses (H3N2) isolated in The Netherlands from 1989 to 1999 revealed two independent amino acid mutations at the anchor residue of the HLA-B27-specific CTL epitope SRYWAIRTR (383 to 391). A R384K mutation was found in influenza A viruses isolated during the influenza season 1989-1990 but not in subsequent seasons. In the influenza season 1993-1994, a novel mutation in the same CTL epitope at the same position was introduced. This R384G mutation proved to be conserved in all influenza A viruses isolated from 1993 onwards. Both mutations R384K and R384G abrogated MHC class I presentation and allowed escape from recognition by specific CTLs.

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