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J Med Virol. 2002 Aug;67(4):589-95.

Divergent evolution of hemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes in recent influenza A:H3N2 viruses isolated in Canada.

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Infectious Disease Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec and Laval University, Québec City, Canada.


Limited information is available concerning the molecular drift of the influenza neuraminidase (NA) genes. We report on the genetic variability of the NA gene from 31 influenza A:H3N2 viruses isolated in the Province of Québec (Canada) during the last three flu seasons (1997-2000). Amino acid substitutions within the NA protein were observed at rates of 1.01% and 0.45% between strains of the 1997-1998 and 1998-1999 seasons and between those of the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 seasons, respectively. In most strains (28/31), amino acid changes occurred within at least one of four codons (197, 339, 370, and 401) previously implicated as antigenic sites. The 8 functional and 10 framework residues that compose the catalytic site of the NA enzyme were completely conserved over the study period. All isolates contained the seven conserved asparagine-linked glycosylation sites found in the NA of the progenitor A/Hong Kong/8/68 strain. In addition, most strains (30/31) had an eighth potential glycosylation site at position 329, whereas a ninth one was found at position 93 in 16 strains. The NA of all strains in this study was related to that of the vaccine strain A/Beijing/353/89, whereas the HA genes of these strains were related to the A/Beijing/32/92 vaccine strain. Thus, it appears that recent influenza strains continue to evolve from a reassortant produced during the cocirculation of the two above variants. Interestingly, some strains whose HA genes were closely related showed significant differences in their NA genes and conversely. This study confirms the importance of analyzing both the NA and the HA genes to assess the evolution of recent influenza epidemic strains.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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