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J Gen Virol. 2014 May;95(Pt 5):1033-42. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.061598-0. Epub 2014 Feb 14.

Characterization of an enhanced antigenic change in the pandemic 2009 H1N1 influenza virus haemagglutinin.

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Biología Viral, Centro Nacional de Microbiología, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Majadahonda, Madrid, Spain.


Murine hybridomas producing neutralizing mAbs specific to the pandemic influenza virus A/California/07/2009 haemagglutinin (HA) were isolated. These antibodies recognized at least two different but overlapping new epitopes that were conserved in the HA of most Spanish pandemic isolates. However, one of these isolates (A/Extremadura/RR6530/2010) lacked reactivity with the mAbs and carried two unique mutations in the HA head (S88Y and K136N) that were required simultaneously to eliminate reactivity with the murine antibodies. This unusual requirement directly illustrates the phenomenon of enhanced antigenic change proposed previously for the accumulation of simultaneous amino acid substitutions at antigenic sites of the influenza A virus HA during virus evolution (Shih et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 104 , 6283-6288, 2007). The changes found in the A/Extremadura/RR6530/2010 HA were not found in escape mutants selected in vitro with one of the mAbs, which contained instead nearby single amino acid changes in the HA head. Thus, either single or double point mutations may similarly alter epitopes of the new antigenic site identified in this work in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus HA. Moreover, this site is relevant for the human antibody response, as shown by competition of mAbs and human post-infection sera for virus binding. The results are discussed in the context of the HA antigenic structure and challenges posed for identification of sequence changes with possible antigenic impact during virus surveillance.

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