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Identification of genome-wide nucleotide sites associated with mammalian virulence in influenza A viruses

By Yousong Peng, Wenfei Zhu, Zhaomin Feng, Zhaozhong Zhu, Zheng Zhang, Yongkun Chen, Suli Liu, Aiping Wu, Dayan Wang, Yuelong Shu, Taijiao Jiang

Posted 14 Sep 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/416586 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.bsheal.2020.02.006)

Motivation: The virulence of influenza viruses is a complex multigenic trait. Previous studies about the virulence determinants of influenza viruses mainly focused on amino acid sites, ignoring the influence of nucleotide mutations. Results: We collected more than 200 viral strains from 21 subtypes of influenza A viruses with virulence in mammals and obtained over 100 mammalian virulence-related nucleotide sites across the genome by computational analysis. Interestingly, 50 of these nucleotide sites only experienced synonymous mutations. Further experiments showed that synonymous mutations in the top two of these nucleotide sites, i.e., PB1-2031 and PB1-633, enhanced the pathogenicity of the viruses in mice. Finally, machine-learning models with accepted accuracy for predicting mammalian virulence of influenza A viruses were built. Overall, this study highlighted the importance of nucleotide mutations, especially synonymous mutations in viral virulence, and provided rapid methods for evaluating the virulence of influenza A viruses. It could be helpful for early warning of newly emerging influenza A viruses.

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