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Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2018 Mar 4;14(3):508-517. doi: 10.1080/21645515.2017.1377871. Epub 2017 Nov 17.

Site-specific glycosylation profile of influenza A (H1N1) hemagglutinin through tandem mass spectrometry.

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a Faculty of Pharmacy, The University of Sydney , Sydney NSW , Australia.
b School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney , Sydney NSW , Australia.
c Mass Spectrometry Core Facility, The University of Sydney , Sydney NSW , Australia.


The study of influenza virus evolution in humans has revealed a significant role of glycosylation profile alterations in the viral glycoproteins - hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), in the emergence of both seasonal and pandemic strains. Viral antigenic drift can modify the number and location of glycosylation sites, altering a wide range of biological activities and the antigenic properties of the strain. In view of the key role of glycans in determining antigenicity, elucidating the glycosylation profiles of influenza strains is a requirement towards the development of improved vaccines. Sequence-based analysis of viral RNA has provided great insight into the role of glycosite modifications in altering virulence and pathogenicity. Nonetheless, this sequence-based approach can only predict potential glycosylation sites. Due to experimental challenges, experimental confirmation of the occupation of predicted glycosylation sites has only been carried out for a few strains. Herein, we utilized HCD/CID-MS/MS tandem mass spectrometry to characterize the site-specific profile of HA of an egg-grown H1N1 reference strain (A/New Caledonia/20/1999). We confirmed experimentally the occupancy of glycosylation sites identified by primary sequence analysis and determined the heterogeneity of glycan structures. Four glycosylation sequons on the stalk region (N28, N40, N304 and N498) and four on the globular head (N71, N104, N142 and N177) of the protein are occupied. Our results revealed a broad glycan microheterogeneity, i.e., a great diversity of glycan compositions present on each glycosite. The present methodology can be applied to characterize other viruses, particularly different influenza strains, to better understand the impact of glycosylation on biological activities and aid the improvement of influenza vaccines.


CID; H1N1; HCD; antigenic site; glycosite modification; hemagglutinin; influenza glycosylation; mass spectrometry

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