Research Article

Different genetic barriers for resistance to HA stem antibodies in influenza H3 and H1 viruses

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Science  19 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6497, pp. 1335-1340
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz5143

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Resistance to influenza antibodies

Broadly neutralizing human antibodies (bnAbs) to the stem of hemagglutinin (HA), a trimeric glycoprotein found on the surface of influenza viruses, are valuable therapeutics and can guide the development of universal influenza vaccines. For their use in therapy development, it is important to understand the extent to which HA stem variants with resistance to bnAbs can develop. Wu et al. used saturation mutagenesis combined with next-generation sequencing to systematically search for resistance mutations to prototypic bnAbs in two influenza subtypes, H3 and H1. They found that the genetic barrier to resistance to stem bnAbs was low for the H3 subtype but higher for the H1 subtype. The ability of H3 to develop resistance to bnAbs presents a challenge in the development of a universal influenza vaccine.

Science, this issue p. 1335

Abstract

The discovery and characterization of broadly neutralizing human antibodies (bnAbs) to the highly conserved stem region of influenza hemagglutinin (HA) have contributed to considerations of a universal influenza vaccine. However, the potential for resistance to stem bnAbs also needs to be more thoroughly evaluated. Using deep mutational scanning, with a focus on epitope residues, we found that the genetic barrier to resistance to stem bnAbs is low for the H3 subtype but substantially higher for the H1 subtype owing to structural differences in the HA stem. Several strong resistance mutations in H3 can be observed in naturally circulating strains and do not reduce in vitro viral fitness and in vivo pathogenicity. This study highlights a potential challenge for development of a truly universal influenza vaccine.

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