N-linked glycosylation facilitates sialic acid-independent attachment and entry of influenza A viruses into cells expressing DC-SIGN or L-SIGN

J Virol. 2011 Mar;85(6):2990-3000. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01705-10. Epub 2010 Dec 29.


It is widely recognized that sialic acid (SA) can mediate attachment of influenza virus to the cell surface, and yet the specific receptors that mediate virus entry are not known. For many viruses, a definitive demonstration of receptor function has been achieved when nonpermissive cells are rendered susceptible to infection following transfection of the gene encoding a putative receptor. For influenza virus, such approaches have been confounded by the abundance of SA on mammalian cells so that it has been difficult to identify cell lines that are not susceptible to infection. We examined influenza virus infection of Lec2 Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, a mutant cell line deficient in SA. Lec2 CHO cells were resistant to influenza virus infection, and stable cell lines expressing either DC-SIGN or L-SIGN were generated to assess the potential of each molecule to function as SA-independent receptors for influenza A viruses. Virus strain BJx109 (H3N2) bound to Lec2 CHO cells expressing DC-SIGN or L-SIGN in a Ca(2+)-dependent manner, and transfected cells were susceptible to virus infection. Treatment of Lec2-DC-SIGN and Lec2-L-SIGN cells with mannan, but not bacterial neuraminidase, blocked infection, a finding consistent with SA-independent virus attachment and entry. Moreover, virus strain PR8 (H1N1) bears low levels of mannose-rich glycans and was inefficient at infecting Lec2 CHO cells expressing either DC-SIGN or L-SIGN, whereas other glycosylated H1N1 subtype viruses could infect cells efficiently. Together, these data indicate that human C-type lectins (DC-SIGN and L-SIGN) can mediate attachment and entry of influenza viruses independently of cell surface SA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Glycosylation
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / physiology*
  • Influenza A Virus, H3N2 Subtype / physiology*
  • Lectins, C-Type / metabolism*
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism*
  • Virus Internalization*


  • CLEC4M protein, human
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • DC-specific ICAM-3 grabbing nonintegrin
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Virus
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid
  • Calcium