Influenza A and B viruses are responsible for the severe morbidity and mortality worldwide in annual influenza epidemics. Currently circulating influenza B virus belongs to the B/Victoria or B/Yamagata lineage that was diverged from each other about 30-40 years ago. However, a mechanistic understanding of their divergent evolution is still lacking. Here we report the crystal structures of influenza B/Yamanashi/166/1998 hemagglutinin (HA) belonging to B/Yamagata lineage and its complex with the avian-like receptor analogue. Comparison of these structures with those of undiverged and diverged influenza B virus HAs, in conjunction with sequence analysis, reveals the molecular basis for the divergent evolution of influenza B virus HAs. Furthermore, HAs of diverged influenza B virus strains display much stronger molecular interactions with terminal sialic acid of bound receptors, which may allow for a different tissue tropism for current influenza B viruses, for which further investigation is required.
Keywords: Divergent evolution; Hemagglutinin; Influenza B virus; Positive selective pressure; Receptor binding; Sialic acid receptors.
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