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Influenza H3 and H1 hemagglutinins have different genetic barriers for resistance to broadly neutralizing stem antibodies

By Nicholas C. Wu, Andrew J. Thompson, Juhye M. Lee, Wen Su, Britni M. Arlian, Jia Xie, Richard A. Lerner, Hui-Ling Yen, Jesse Bloom, Ian A. Wilson

Posted 30 Dec 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2019.12.30.891135

In the past decade, the discovery and characterization of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) to the highly conserved stem region of influenza hemagglutinin (HA) have provided valuable insights for development of a universal influenza vaccine. However, the genetic barrier for resistance to stem bnAbs has not been thoroughly evaluated. Here, we performed a series of deep mutational scanning experiments to probe for resistance mutations. We found that the genetic barrier to resistance to stem bnAbs is generally very low for the H3 subtype but substantially higher for the H1 subtype. Several resistance mutations in H3 cannot be neutralized by stem bnAbs at the highest concentration tested, do not reduce in vitro viral fitness and in vivo pathogenicity, and are often present in circulating strains as minor variants. Thus, H3 HAs have a higher propensity than H1 HAs to escape major stem bnAbs and creates a potential challenge in the development of a bona fide universal influenza vaccine.

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