The Influenza B Virus Hemagglutinin Head Domain Is Less Tolerant to Transposon Mutagenesis than That of the Influenza A Virus.
Influenza A and B viruses can continuously evade humoral immune responses by developing mutations in the globular head of the hemagglutinin (HA) that prevent antibody binding. However, the influenza B virus HA over time displays less antigenic variation despite being functionally and structurally similar to the influenza A virus HA. To determine if the influenza B virus HA is under constraints that limit its antigenic variation, we performed a transposon screen to compare the mutational tolerance of the currently circulating influenza A virus HAs (H1 and H3 subtypes) and influenza B virus HAs (B/Victoria87 and B/Yamagata88 antigenic lineages). A library of insertional mutants for each HA was generated and deep sequenced after passaging to determine where insertions were tolerated in replicating viruses. The head domains of both viruses tolerated transposon mutagenesis, but the influenza A virus head was more tolerant to insertions than the influenza B virus head domain. Furthermore, all five of the known antigenic sites of the influenza A virus HA were tolerant of 15 nucleotide insertions, while insertions were detected in only two of the four antigenic sites in the influenza B virus head domain. Our analysis demonstrated that the influenza B virus HA is inherently less tolerant of transposon-mediated insertions than the influenza A virus HA. The reduced insertional tolerance of the influenza B virus HA may reveal genetic restrictions resulting in a lower capacity for antigenic evolution.IMPORTANCE Influenza viruses cause seasonal epidemics and result in significant human morbidity and mortality. Influenza viruses persist in the human population through generating mutations in the hemagglutinin head domain that prevent antibody recognition. Despite the similar selective pressures on influenza A and B viruses, influenza A virus displays a higher rate and breadth of antigenic variability than influenza B virus. A transposon mutagenesis screen was used to examine if the reduced antigenic variability of influenza B virus was due to inherent differences in mutational tolerance. This study demonstrates that the influenza A virus head domain and the individual antigenic sites targeted by humoral responses are more tolerant to insertions than those of influenza B virus. This finding sheds light on the genetic factors controlling the antigenic evolution of influenza viruses.
Fulton, BO; Sun, W; Heaton, NS; Palese, P
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