, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 253-260

Changes in the neuraminidase of neurovirulent influenza virus strains

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The influenza virus A/WS/33 has been adapted to mouse brain to produce two neurovirulent derivatives, A/NWS/33 (NWS) and A/WSN/33 (WSN), with the viral neuraminidase gene shown to be the major determinant of neurovirulence. The complete nucleotide sequence of the NA genes from each strain has been determined, which has allowed the identification of changes that have occurred during adaptation to mouse brain. Five changes are shared by the neurovirulent strains. Comparison to the known neuraminidase structure has identified four of these that may affect the active site of the enzyme. In addition, significant differences in the properties of the neuraminidase from the neurovirulent strains were observed relative to the parent strain. While no correlation was observed between neurovirulence and overall neuraminidase activity or preference for a particularN-substitution, the enzymes from both neurovirulent strains showed an increased preference for small substrates and those with 2→3 linkages, and their activity was potentiated by Ca2+ ions.

The nucleotide sequence data reported in this paper have been submitted to the GenBank nucleotide sequence database and have been assigned accession numbers L25815-7.