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Sera from individuals with narrowly focused influenza virus antibodies rapidly select viral escape mutations in ovo

By Amy K.F. Davis, Kevin McCormick, Megan E. Gumina, Joshua G Petrie, Emily T. Martin, Katherine S. Xue, Jesse Bloom, Arnold S Monto, Frederic D Bushman, Scott E. Hensley

Posted 17 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/324707 (published DOI: 10.1128/jvi.00859-18)

Influenza viruses use distinct antibody escape mechanisms depending on the overall complexity of the antibody response that is encountered. When grown in the presence of a hemagglutinin (HA) monoclonal antibody, influenza viruses typically acquire a single HA mutation that reduces the binding of that specific monoclonal antibody. In contrast, when confronted with mixtures of HA monoclonal antibodies or polyclonal sera that have antibodies that bind several HA epitopes, influenza viruses acquire mutations that increase HA binding to host cells. Recent data from our laboratory and others suggest that some humans possess antibodies that are narrowly focused on HA epitopes that were present in influenza virus strains that they were likely exposed to in childhood. Here, we completed a series of experiments to determine if humans with narrowly focused HA antibody responses are able to select for influenza virus antigenic escape variants in ovo. We identified three human donors that possessed HA antibody responses that were heavily focused on a single HA antigenic site. Remarkably, sera from all three of these donors selected single HA escape mutations during in ovopassage experiments, similar to what has been previously reported for single monoclonal antibodies.These single HA mutations directly reduced binding of serum antibodies used for selection. We propose that new antigenic variants of influenza viruses might originate in individuals that produce antibodies that are narrowly focused on HA epitopes that were present in viral strains that they encountered in childhood.

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