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EMBO J. 1994 Nov 15;13(22):5504-15.

The influenza virus hemagglutinin cytoplasmic tail is not essential for virus assembly or infectivity.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208-3500.


The influenza A virus hemagglutinin (HA) glycoprotein contains a cytoplasmic tail which consists of 10-11 amino acids, of which five residues re conserved in all subtypes of influenza A virus. As the cytoplasmic tail is not needed for intracellular transport to the plasma membrane, it has become virtually dogma that the role of the cytoplasmic tail is in forming protein-protein interactions necessary for creating an infectious budding virus. To investigate the role of the HA cytoplasmic tail in virus replication, reverse genetics was used to obtain an influenza virus that lacked an HA cytoplasmic tail. The rescued virus contained the HA of subtype A/Udorn/72 in a helper virus (subtype A/WSN/33) background. Biochemical analysis indicated that only the introduced tail- HA was incorporated into virions and these particles lacked a detectable fragment of the helper virus HA. The tail- HA rescued virus assembled and replicated almost as efficiently as virions containing wild-type HA, suggesting that the cytoplasmic tail is not essential for the virus assembly process. Nonetheless, a revertant virus was isolated, suggesting that possession of a cytoplasmic tail does confer an advantage.

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