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J Virol. 2004 Sep;78(18):9954-64.

Molecular determinants within the surface proteins involved in the pathogenicity of H5N1 influenza viruses in chickens.

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  • 1Division of Virology, Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 332 N. Lauderdale St., Memphis, TN 38105-2794, USA.


Although it is established that the cleavage site and glycosylation patterns in the hemagglutinin (HA) play important roles in determining the pathogenicity of H5 avian influenza viruses, some viruses exist that are not highly pathogenic despite possessing the known characteristics of high pathogenicity (i.e., their HA contains multiple basic amino acids at the cleavage site and has glycosylation patterns similar to that of the highly pathogenic H5 viruses). Currently little is known about the H5N1 viruses that fall into this intermediate category of pathogenicity. We have identified strains of H5N1 avian influenza viruses that have markers typical of high pathogenicity but distinctly differ in their ability to cause disease and death in chickens. By analyzing viruses constructed by reverse-genetic methods and containing recombinant HAs, we established that amino acids 97, 108, 126, 138, 212, and 217 of HA, in addition to those within the cleavage site, affect pathogenicity. Further investigation revealed that an additional glycosylation site within the neuraminidase (NA) protein globular head contributed to the high virulence of the H5N1 virus. Our findings are in agreement with previous observations that suggest that the activities of the HA and NA proteins are functionally linked.

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