Genetic Variability of Hong Kong (H3N2) Influenza Viruses: Spontaneous Mutations and Their Location in the Viral Genome

Gene. 1980 Nov;11(3-4):319-31. doi: 10.1016/0378-1119(80)90072-4.


The genetic heterogeneity of five influenza A (H3N2) strains isolated between 1968 and 1977 has been estimated by T1-oligonucleotide fingerprinting of 32P-labeled viral RNA. Assuming that the large T1-resistant oligonucleotides represent a random sample of the viral RNA, the genetic differences observed would affect 0.3 to 10.7% of the RNA positions of the genes studied, depending on the pair of viruses considered. A smaller degree of genetic heterogeneity was observed when six coetaneous viral samples were compared. The distribution of spontaneous mutations among the viral genes was studied by fingerprinting individual RNA segments isolated either by gel electrophoresis or hybridization with plasmids containing influenza-specific DNA sequences. No statistically significant differences were detected in the distribution of mutations among the viral genes studied. The mutation frequency at the hemagglutinin RNA region coding for the HA1 subunit was found to be two times higher than that at the region encoding that HA2 subunit. Our results suggest that the antigenic variability of influenza viruses may be a consequence of a general genetic variability which effects many of the viral genes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral / genetics
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Genes, Viral
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Hemagglutinins, Viral / genetics
  • Influenza A Virus, H3N2 Subtype*
  • Influenza A virus / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Oligoribonucleotides / analysis
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • Ribonuclease T1


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Hemagglutinins, Viral
  • Oligoribonucleotides
  • RNA, Viral
  • Ribonuclease T1