Geometry and virus evolution

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Science  10 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6244, pp. 151
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6244.151-b

An influenza pandemic is only a couple of mutations away. Or is it? Meyer and Wilke analyzed how the hemagglutinin protein of the H3 subtype of influenza has evolved, to learn how mutation allows this virus to escape host immune surveillance. This method combines sequencing data with data on protein structure and present and past antigenic sites (that is, sites recognized by antibodies) on hemagglutinin. Surprisingly, antigenic information revealed little, but the geometrical changes wrought by mutations in the host cell receptor-binding site did. This analysis indicates that mutation in sites that we understand to be antigenic may not influence how influenza evolves as much as previously assumed.

PLOS Pathol. 11, e1004940 (2015).

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