Structure of the Uncleaved Human H1 Hemagglutinin from the Extinct 1918 Influenza Virus

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Science  19 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5665, pp. 1866-1870
DOI: 10.1126/science.1093373

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The 1918 “Spanish” influenza pandemic represents the largest recorded outbreak of any infectious disease. The crystal structure of the uncleaved precursor of the major surface antigen of the extinct 1918 virus was determined at 3.0 angstrom resolution after reassembly of the hemagglutinin gene from viral RNA fragments preserved in 1918 formalin-fixed lung tissues. A narrow avian-like receptor-binding site, two previously unobserved histidine patches, and a less exposed surface loop at the cleavage site that activates viral membrane fusion reveal structural features primarily found in avian viruses, which may have contributed to the extraordinarily high infectivity and mortality rates observed during 1918.

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