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Recent human H3N2 influenza A viruses (IAV) have evolved to employ elongated glycans terminating in α2,6-linked sialic acid as their receptors. These glycans are displayed in low abundancies by (humanized) Madin-Darby Canine Kidney cells (MDCK and hCK) which are commonly employed to propagate IAV, resulting in low or no viral propagation. Here, we examined whether the overexpression of the glycosyltransferases B3GNT2 and B4GALT1, which are responsible for the elongation of poly-N-acetyllactosamines (LacNAc), would result in improved A/H3N2 propagation. Stable overexpression of B3GNT2 and B4GALT1 in MDCK and hCK cells was achieved by lentiviral integration and subsequent antibiotic selection and confirmed by qPCR and protein mass spectrometry experiments. Flow cytometry and glycan mass spectrometry experiments using the B3GNT2 and/or B4GALT1 knock-in cells demonstrated increased binding of viral hemagglutinins and the presence of a larger number of LacNAc repeating units, especially on hCK-B3GNT2 cells. An increase in the number of glycan receptors did, however, not result in a greater infection efficiency of recent human H3N2 viruses. Based on these results, we propose that H3N2 IAVs require a low number of suitable glycan receptors to infect cells and that an increase in the glycan receptor display above this threshold does not result in improved infection efficiency.© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Cindy M Spruit, Igor R Sweet, Joshua C L Maliepaard, Theo Bestebroer, Pascal Lexmond, Boning Qiu, Mirjam J A Damen, Ron A M Fouchier, Karli R Reiding, Joost Snijder, Sander Herfst, Geert-Jan Boons, Robert P de Vries. Contemporary human H3N2 influenza a viruses require a low threshold of suitable glycan receptors for efficient infection. Glycobiology. 2023 Jul 20

PMID: 37471650

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