Bird Flu H5 Structure Defined

Science  21 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5772, pp. 333
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5772.333g

The H5N1 “bird flu” virus is highly contagious and deadly in poultry. To date, infection of humans seems limited to direct bird-to-human transmission, but mortality in humans is high, and the question of whether the virus may adapt into a pandemic human strain is pressing. Stevens et al. (p. 404, published online 16 March) determined the structure of H5N1 hemagglutinin (HA) at 2.9 angstrom resolution and examined the receptor-binding preference of this HA and specific mutants using a glycan microarray system. Mutations that convert avian H2 and H3 HAs to human receptor specificity did not cause a similar specificity switch in the H5N1 HA, but did permit binding to a natural human α2-6 glycan.

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