Evolution and dynamics of the pandemic H1N1 influenza hemagglutinin protein from 2009 to 2017.
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The emergence of swine-origin pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) in 2009 invigorated extensive surveillance programs worldwide which have resulted in the deposition of large numbers of H1N1 sequences to Genbank. In the present study, we report on global evolution and dynamics of the pandemic H1N1 influenza Hemagglutinin (HA) protein in viruses isolated from three different continents (North America, Europe and Asia) during the period between April 2009 until April 2017. Close to 2000 HA full protein sequences were downloaded from the Influenza Research Database of the NCBI and analyzed using DNAStar to run an alignment, the web-based NetNglyc to predict N-Glycosylation sites and finally, the BEAST software package to calculate evolution and substitution rates. Our analysis improves upon other published papers in that we report on frequencies, dynamics and impact of HA mutations in pH1N1 viruses isolated from three continents during the past decade, as well as the evolution rate and site-specific selection pressures. Sequence based analysis demonstrated substantial changes in the HA protein over the last decade. Results showed that the HA gene is under negative selection (P value; HA= -2.253). The evolution rates varied among the three continents ranging from 2.36 × 10 in Europe to 3.18 × 10 in Asia. Mutations were detected at higher frequency and faster rate at the antigenic sites surrounding the receptor-binding domain (RBD), in particular, in the Sa and Sb sites. Mutations were either gradually accumulated to become fixed in currently circulating strains (D114N, S179N, S202T, S220T, I233T, K300E and E391K) or dynamic in terms of appearance and disappearance, both spatially and temporally (A203T, N458K and E508G). Some of the reported mutations have been shown to increase infection severity (D239G/N; globular head), enhance HA binding affinity to its receptor (S200P and S202T; RBD), or have deleterious effect on HA function (N458K and E508G; stem region). The continuous accumulation of mutations at the Sa site led to the gradual acquisition of glycosylation at residue 179 starting from 2015, which became a dominant feature in all strains isolated in the following years. In addition to sharing common amino acid substitutions (e.g. S179N in HA head and E516K in HA stem) with previous seasonal strains, the pattern of glycosylation acquisition/loss at 177 and 179 positions on the globular head, which are prominent features of immune escape, implicate that pH1N1 might follow a similar evolution trend as the SC1918 pandemic virus.
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