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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Jan;85(2):324-8.

Sequence requirements for cleavage activation of influenza virus hemagglutinin expressed in mammalian cells.

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Department of Virology and Molecular Biology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38101.


Cleavage of the hemagglutinin (HA) in tissue culture systems has been correlated with virulence of avian influenza viruses. To examine the structural requirements for cleavage of the HA, the HA gene from a virulent H5 influenza virus was expressed in mammalian cells (CV-1), and the cleavage site of the HA was explored by using site-specific mutagenesis. The expressed HA protein exhibited normal cleavage, transport to the cell membrane, and ability to adsorb and to fuse erythrocytes at pH 5. Site-specific mutagenesis of the HA directly established that (i) most of the basic amino acids at this site are critical for cleavage activation; (ii) besides the connecting peptide sequence, at least one other structural feature of the HA is required for enzyme recognition; and (iii) the length of the connecting peptide can abrogate the structural feature(s).

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