• Mutations during the Adaptation of H9N2 Avian Influenza Virus to the Respiratory Epithelium of Pigs Enhance Sialic Acid Binding Activity and Virulence in Mice.

      Yang, W; Punyadarsaniya, D; Lambertz, R L O; Lee, D C C; Liang, C H; Höper, D; Leist, S R; Hernández-Cáceres, A; Stech, J; Beer, M; Wu, C Y; Wong, C H; Schughart, K; Meng, F; Herrler, G; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-04-15)
      The natural reservoir for influenza viruses is waterfowl, and from there they succeeded in crossing the barrier to different mammalian species. We analyzed the adaptation of avian influenza viruses to a mammalian host by passaging an H9N2 strain three times in differentiated swine airway epithelial cells. Using precision-cut slices from the porcine lung to passage the parental virus, isolates from each of the three passages (P1 to P3) were characterized by assessing growth curves and ciliostatic effects. The only difference noted was an increased growth kinetics of the P3 virus. Sequence analysis revealed four mutations: one each in the PB2 and NS1 proteins and two in the HA protein. The HA mutations, A190V and T212I, were characterized by generating recombinant viruses containing either one or both amino acid exchanges. Whereas the parental virus recognized α2,3-linked sialic acids preferentially, the HA190 mutant bound to a broad spectrum of glycans with α2,6/8/9-linked sialic acids. The HA212 mutant alone differed only slightly from the parental virus; however, the combination of both mutations (HA190+HA212) increased the binding affinity to those glycans recognized by the HA190 mutant. Remarkably, only the HA double mutant showed a significantly increased pathogenicity in mice. In contrast, none of those mutations affected the ciliary activity of the epithelial cells which is characteristic for virulent swine influenza viruses. Taken together, our results indicate that shifts in the HA receptor affinity are just an early adaptation step of avian H9N2 strains; further mutational changes may be required to become virulent for pigs.IMPORTANCESwine play an important role in the interspecies transmission of influenza viruses. Avian influenza A viruses (IAV) of the H9N2 subtype have successfully infected hosts from different species but have not established a stable lineage. We have analyzed the adaptation of IAV-H9N2 virus to target cells of a new host by passaging the virus three times in differentiated porcine respiratory epithelial cells. Among the four mutations detected, the two HA mutations were analyzed by generating recombinant viruses. Depending on the infection system used, the mutations differed in their phenotypic expression, e.g., sialic acid binding activity, replication kinetics, plaque size, and pathogenicity in inbred mice. However, none of the mutations affected the ciliary activity which serves as a virulence marker. Thus, early adaptive mutation enhances the replication kinetics, but more mutations are required for IAV of the H9N2 subtype to become virulent.
    • Protection from Severe Influenza Virus Infections in Mice Carrying the Mx1 Influenza Virus Resistance Gene Strongly Depends on Genetic Background.

      Shin, Dai-Lun; Hatesuer, Bastian; Bergmann, Silke; Nedelko, Tatiana; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015-10)
      Influenza virus infections represent a serious threat to human health. Both extrinsic and intrinsic factors determine the severity of influenza. The MX dynamin-like GTPase 1 (Mx1) gene has been shown to confer strong resistance to influenza A virus infections in mice. Most laboratory mouse strains, including C57BL/6J, carry nonsense or deletion mutations in Mx1 and thus a nonfunctional allele, whereas wild-derived mouse strains carry a wild-type Mx1 allele. Congenic C57BL/6J (B6-Mx1(r/r)) mice expressing a wild-type allele from the A2G mouse strain are highly resistant to influenza A virus infections, to both mono- and polybasic subtypes. Furthermore, in genetic mapping studies, Mx1 was identified as the major locus of resistance to influenza virus infections. Here, we investigated whether the Mx1 protective function is influenced by the genetic background. For this, we generated a congenic mouse strain carrying the A2G wild-type Mx1 resistance allele on a DBA/2J background (D2-Mx1(r/r)). Most remarkably, congenic D2-Mx1(r/r) mice expressing a functional Mx1 wild-type allele are still highly susceptible to H1N1 virus. However, pretreatment of D2-Mx1(r/r) mice with alpha interferon protected them from lethal infections. Our results showed, for the first time, that the presence of an Mx1 wild-type allele from A2G as such does not fully protect mice from lethal influenza A virus infections. These observations are also highly relevant for susceptibility to influenza virus infections in humans.
    • The proteolytic activation of A (H3N2) Influenza virus hemagglutinin is facilitated by different type II transmembrane serine proteases.

      Kühn, Nora; Bergmann, Silke; Kasnitz, Nadine; Lambertz, Ruth L O; Keppner, Anna; van den Brand, Judith M A; Pöhlmann, Stefan; Weiß, Siegfried; Hummler, Edith; Hatesuer, Bastian; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-02-17)
      Cleavage of influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) by host cell proteases is necessary for viral activation and infectivity. In humans and mice, members of the type II transmembrane protease family (TTSP), e.g. TMPRSS2, TMPRSS4 and TMPRSS11d (HAT), have been shown to cleave influenza virus HA for viral activation and infectivity in vitro. Recently, we reported that inactivation of a single HA-activating protease gene, Tmprss2, in knock-out mice inhibits spread of H1N1 influenza viruses. However, after infection of Tmprss2 knock-out mice with H3N2 only a slight increase was observed in survival and mice still lost body weight. In this study, we investigated an additional trypsin-like protease, TMPRSS4. Both TMPRSS2 and TMPRSS4 are expressed in the same cell types of the mouse lung. Deletion of Tmprss4 alone in knock-out mice does not protect them from body weight loss and death upon infection with H3N2 influenza virus. In contrast, Tmprss2(-/-)Tmprss4(-/-) double knock-out mice showed a remarkably reduced virus spread and lung pathology in addition to reduced body weight loss and mortality. Thus, our results identified TMPRSS4 as a second host cell protease that, in addition to TMPRSS2, is able to activate the HA of H3N2 influenza virus HA in vivo.