Influenza genes evolve mostly via point mutations, and so knowing the effect of every amino-acid mutation provides information about evolutionary paths available to the virus. We previously used high-throughput mutagenesis and deep sequencing to estimate the effects of all mutations to an H1 influenza hemagglutinin on viral replication in cell culture (Thyagarajan and Bloom, 2014); however, these measurements suffered from substantial noise. Here we describe advances that greatly improve the accuracy and reproducibility of our measurements. The largest improvements come from using a helper virus to reduce bottlenecks when generating viruses from plasmids. Our measurements confirm that antigenic sites on the globular head of hemagglutinin are highly tolerant of mutations. However, other regions -- including stalk epitopes targeted by broadly neutralizing antibodies -- have a limited capacity to evolve. The ability to accurately measure the effects of all influenza mutations should enhance efforts to understand and predict viral evolution.
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