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Virology. 2012 Oct 10;432(1):91-8. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2012.06.002. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

Surface glycoproteins of influenza A H3N2 virus modulate virus replication in the respiratory tract of ferrets.

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MedImmune, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.


The hemagglutinin (HA) genes of the influenza A H3N2 subtype viruses isolated from 1968 to 2010 have evolved substantially but their neuraminidase (NA) genes have been relatively less divergent. The H3N2 viruses isolated since 1995 were found to replicate in the lower respiratory tract of ferrets less efficiently than the earlier isolates. To evaluate whether the HA or/and NA or the internal protein gene segments of the H3N2 virus affected viral replication in the respiratory tract of ferrets, recombinant A/California/07/2004 (CA04) (H3N2) virus and its reassortants that contained the same CA04 internal protein gene segments and the HA and/or NA of A/Udorn/309/1972 (UD72) or A/Wuhan/359/1995 (WH95) H3N2 viruses were generated and evaluated for their replication in the respiratory tract of ferrets. All the reassortant viruses replicated efficiently in the upper respiratory tract of ferrets, but their replication in the lower respiratory tract of ferrets varied. In contrast to the UD72-HA reassortant virus that replicated efficiently in the lungs of ferrets, the virus with the WH95-HA or the CA04-HA either replicated modestly or did not replicate in the lungs of ferrets. The reassortants with the WH95-HA and UD72-NA or CA04-NA had the tendency to lose a N-linked glycosylation site at residue 246 in the HA, resulting in viral lung titer of 100-fold higher than the virus with the HA and NA from WH95. The UD72-NA had the highest neuraminidase activity and increased viral replication by up to 100-fold in tissue culture cells during early infection. Thus, our data indicate that both the HA and NA glycoproteins play important roles in viral replication of the H3N2 influenza virus in ferrets.

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