Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unexpected weakness in H1N1's method for evading detection by the immune system

Date:
December 11, 2009
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
The H1N1 influenza virus has been keeping a secret that may be the key to defeating it and other flu viruses as well. Researchers have found what they believe is a weakness in H1N1's method for evading detection by the immune system.

Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) have found what they believe is a weakness in H1N1's method for evading detection by the immune system.
Credit: Rice University/Baylor College of Medicine

The H1N1 influenza virus has been keeping a secret that may be the key to defeating it and other flu viruses as well.

Related Articles


Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) have found what they believe is a weakness in H1N1's method for evading detection by the immune system.

Comparing its genetic sequences going all the way back to the virus's first known appearance in the deadly "Spanish flu" outbreak of 1918, they discovered a previously unrealized role of receptor-binding residues in host evasion, which effectively becomes a bottleneck that keeps the virus in check.

Rice's Jianpeng Ma and graduate student Jun Shen and BCM's Qinghua Wang compared the sequences of more than 300 strains of H1N1 to track its evolution; they reported their results in a recent online edition of the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

The researchers were looking in particular at hemagglutinin (HA), the protein "hook" that allows the virus to attach itself to and infect host cells. It's long been known that five regions of H1N1's HA serve as antigenic sites, the protein fragments that trigger the body's immune system. These antigenic sites, first mapped in 1981, shuffle their amino-acid sequences in the endless cat-and-mouse game that viruses play to survive.

The researchers discovered several key residues involved in both antigenic sites and the receptor-binding site, the part of the protein that attaches to a cell and allows the virus to invade.

The common belief has been that the receptor binding could not change. "The site is known, but no one thought it was involved in the immune system. In order to recognize the receptor, that particular region has to be robust," Ma said. "But it turns out this region is not only variable, but also interacts with the immune system."

For a virus to evade antibodies, all five antigenic sites would have to disguise themselves by mutating. The new finding led the researchers to believe the receptor-binding residues would also have to mutate, but not so much that the binding no longer works. "If the binding is abolished, the virus dies," said Ma, a Rice professor in bioengineering with a joint appointment at BCM.

Such dual-function residues are a likely bottleneck for the virus, he said, because they're under the tightest restrictions. Thus, they could be easier to track over time and may chart a path to predict future mutations that will aid in vaccine design.

"It becomes a weak link and provides us with a window into the virus that we can monitor," Ma said. "The virus's bottleneck is our opportunity."

Wang, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at BCM who has long studied the structure and function of HA, has been involved in the project since it began and is now working to verify the results in vitro. She hopes confirming the computations will lead to more efficiency in creating vaccines not only for H1N1 but also for other strains of the flu.

"An underlying implication is that this may not be restricted to H1N1," Wang said. "It may apply to other influenza viruses as well. If studying viral evolution can help predict what will cause a severe problem in humans, you can actually pre-stock vaccines, which will save time."

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Welch Foundation, the Welch Chemistry and Biology Collaborative Grant from the John S. Dunn Gulf Coast Consortium for Chemical Genomics and the Rice Faculty Initiatives Fund.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jun Shen, Jianpeng Ma, Qinghua Wang. Evolutionary Trends of A(H1N1) Influenza Virus Hemagglutinin Since 1918. PLoS ONE, 2009; 4 (11): e7789 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007789

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Unexpected weakness in H1N1's method for evading detection by the immune system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210111201.htm>.
Rice University. (2009, December 11). Unexpected weakness in H1N1's method for evading detection by the immune system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210111201.htm
Rice University. "Unexpected weakness in H1N1's method for evading detection by the immune system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210111201.htm (accessed March 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Solitair Device Aims to Takes Guesswork out of Sun Safety

Solitair Device Aims to Takes Guesswork out of Sun Safety

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 31, 2015) — The Solitair device aims to take the confusion out of how much sunlight we should expose our skin to. Small enough to be worn as a tie or hair clip, it monitors the user&apos;s sun exposure by taking into account their skin pigment, location and schedule. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soda, Salt and Sugar: The Next Generation of Taxes

Soda, Salt and Sugar: The Next Generation of Taxes

Washington Post (Mar. 30, 2015) — Denisa Livingston, a health advocate for the Dinι Community Advocacy Alliance, and the Post&apos;s Abby Phillip discuss efforts around the country to make unhealthy food choices hurt your wallet as much as your waistline. Video provided by Washington Post
Powered by NewsLook.com
UnitedHealth Buys Catamaran

UnitedHealth Buys Catamaran

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 30, 2015) — The $12.8 billion merger will combine the U.S.&apos; third and fourth largest pharmacy benefit managers. Analysts say smaller PBMs could also merge. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

AFP (Mar. 28, 2015) — Sierra Leone imposed a three-day nationwide lockdown Friday for the second time in six months in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. Duration: 01:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins