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. 1996;12(1):77-84.
doi: 10.1007/BF00370003.

An Arg-Lys Insertion at the Hemagglutinin Cleavage Site of an H5N2 Avian Influenza Isolate


An Arg-Lys Insertion at the Hemagglutinin Cleavage Site of an H5N2 Avian Influenza Isolate

M L Perdue et al. Virus Genes. .


Recent isolations of H5N2 subtype avian influenza (AI) viruses in North America have raised questions concerning their origin, transmission to commercial poultry, and potential for virulence. One ratite-origin isolate of low pathogenicity, A/emu/TX/39924/93 (H5N2), was subjected to a procedure that rapidly selects and/or amplifies highly pathogenic (HP) strains. The resulting highly virulent derivative had an altered hemagglutinin (HA) gene containing an additional six nucleotides at position 970-975 in the HA1 coding region. This resulted in an arg-lys insertion near the proteolytic cleavage site of the HA protein. The remainder of the HA sequence differed by an additional seven amino acids from the parent. The HA precursor of the derivative, but not the parent, was readily cleaved during replication in cell culture without addition of trypsin. In experimentally infected chickens, the derivative produced lesions typical of highly pathogenic avian influenza. A reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) primer set was designed to amplify exclusively from molecules with the inserted six nucleotides. The set yielded product only from the selected derivative samples and not the parent. Thus, the levels of the HP variants in the parent stock were undetectable, or the insertion occurred rapidly during the selection process.

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