Specific Residues in the 2009 H1N1 Swine-Origin Influenza Matrix Protein Influence Virion Morphology and Efficiency of Viral Spread In Vitro

The University of Hong Kong, China
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 11/2012; 7(11):e50595. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050595
Source: PubMed


In April 2009, a novel influenza virus emerged as a result of genetic reassortment between two pre-existing swine strains. This highly contagious H1N1 recombinant (pH1N1) contains the same genomic background as North American triple reassortant (TR) viruses except for the NA and M segments which were acquired from the Eurasian swine lineage. Yet, despite their high degree of genetic similarity, we found the morphology of virions produced by the pH1N1 isolate, A/California/04/09 (ACal-04/09), to be predominantly spherical by immunufluorescence and electron microscopy analysis in human lung and swine kidney epithelial cells, whereas TR strains were observed to be mostly filamentous. In addition, nine clinical pH1N1 samples collected from nasal swab specimens showed similar spherical morphology as the ACal-04/09 strain. Sequence analysis between TR and pH1N1 viruses revealed four amino acid differences in the viral matrix protein (M1), a known determinant of influenza morphology, at positions 30, 142, 207, and 209. To test the role of these amino acids in virus morphology, we rescued mutant pH1N1 viruses in which each of the four M1 residues were replaced with the corresponding TR residue. pH1N1 containing substitutions at positions 30, 207 and 209 exhibited a switch to filamentous morphology, indicating a role for these residues in virion morphology. Substitutions at these residues resulted in lower viral titers, reduced growth kinetics, and small plaque phenotypes compared to wild-type, suggesting a correlation between influenza morphology and efficient cell-to-cell spread in vitro. Furthermore, we observed efficient virus-like particle production from cells expressing wild-type pH1N1 M1, but not M1 containing substitutions at positions 30, 207, and 209, or M1 from other strains. These data suggest a direct role for pH1N1 specific M1 residues in the production and release of spherical progeny, which may contribute to the rapid spread of the pandemic virus.

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Available from: Emily A Desmet, Oct 03, 2014
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    • "M1 is a conserved influenza virus protein with approximately 25% amino acid sequence variation. As a consequence, many separate mutational substitutions previously described were demonstrated to influence the virus morphology, including also mutations within CRAC-containing amphipathic helices (Bialas et al.,2012; Elton et al., 2014). However, because of the functionally relevant aa substitutions, the critical CRAC aa residues exhibit an extremely low (close to zero) variability rate. "
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