A strong restriction of the avian influenza A virus polymerase in mammalian cells generally limits viral host-range switching. Although substitutions like E627K in the PB2 polymerase subunit can facilitate polymerase activity to allow replication in mammals, many human H5N1 and H7N9 viruses lack this adaptive substitution. Here, several previously unknown, naturally occurring, adaptive substitutions in PB2 were identified by bioinformatics, and their enhancing activity was verified using in vitro assays. Adaptive substitutions enhanced polymerase activity and virus replication in mammalian cells for avian H5N1 and H7N9 viruses but not for a partially human-adapted H5N1 virus. Adaptive substitutions toward basic amino acids were frequent and were mostly clustered in a putative RNA exit channel in a polymerase crystal structure. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated divergent dependency of influenza viruses on adaptive substitutions. The novel adaptive substitutions found in this study increase basic understanding of influenza virus host adaptation and will help in surveillance efforts.

doi.org/10.1128/JVI.00130-16, hdl.handle.net/1765/95927
Journal of Virology
Department of Virology

Mänz, B., de Graaf, M., Mögling, R., Richard, M., Bestebroer, T., Rimmelzwaan, G., & Fouchier, R. (2016). Multiple natural substitutions in avian influenza A virus PB2 facilitate efficient replication in human cells. Journal of Virology, 90(13), 5928–5938. doi:10.1128/JVI.00130-16