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Sci Rep. 2011;1:200. doi: 10.1038/srep00200. Epub 2011 Dec 19.

Networks link antigenic and receptor-binding sites of influenza hemagglutinin: mechanistic insight into fitter strain propagation.

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Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology, the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and the Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Influenza viral passaging through pre-vaccinated mice shows that emergent antigenic site mutations on the viral hemagglutinin (HA) impact host receptor-binding affinity and, therefore, the evolution of fitter influenza strains. To understand this phenomenon, we computed the Significant Interactions Network (SIN) for each residue and mapped the networks of antigenic site residues on a representative H1N1 HA. Specific antigenic site residues are 'linked' to receptor-binding site (RBS) residues via their SIN and mutations within "RBS-linked" antigenic residues can significantly influence receptor-binding affinity by impacting the SIN of key RBS residues. In contrast, other antigenic site residues do not have such "RBS-links" and do not impact receptor-binding affinity upon mutation. Thus, a potential mechanism emerges for how immunologic pressure on RBS-linked antigenic residues can contribute to evolution of fitter influenza strains by modulating the host receptor-binding affinity.

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