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Influenza virus neuraminidase (NA) can act as a receptor-binding protein, a role commonly attributed to hemagglutinin (HA). In influenza A(H3N2) viruses, three NA amino acid residues have previously been associated with NA-mediated hemagglutination: T148, D151, and more recently, H150. These residues are part of the 150-loop of the NA monomer. Substitutions at 148 and 151 arise from virus propagation in laboratory cell cultures, whereas changes at 150 occurred during virus evolution in the human host. In this study, we examined the effect of natural amino acid polymorphism at position 150 on NA-mediated hemagglutination. Using the A/Puerto Rico/8/34 backbone, we generated a comprehensive panel of recombinant A(H3N2) viruses that have different NAs but shared an HA that displays poor binding to red blood cells (RBCs). None of the tested substitutions at 150 (C, H, L, R, and S) promoted NA-binding. However, we identified two new determinants of NA-binding, Q136K and T439R, that emerged during virus culturing. Similar to T148I, both Q136K and T439R reduced NA enzyme activity by 48-86% and inhibition (14- to 173-fold) by the NA inhibitor zanamivir. NA-binding was observed when a virus preparation contained approximately 10% of NA variants with either T148I or T439R, highlighting the benefit of using deep sequencing in virus characterization. Taken together, our findings provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the ability of NA to function as a binding protein. Information gained may aid in the design of new and improved NA-targeting antivirals. Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Rongyuan Gao, Philippe Noriel Q Pascua, Ha T Nguyen, Anton Chesnokov, Chloe Champion, Vasiliy P Mishin, Dave E Wentworth, Larisa V Gubareva. New insights into the neuraminidase-mediated hemagglutination activity of influenza A(H3N2) viruses. Antiviral research. 2023 Oct;218:105719

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PMID: 37717821

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