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Keywords:

  • Cell receptor;
  • influenza virus;
  • N-acetyl neuraminic acid;
  • surface plasmon resonance

Please cite this paper as: Meng et al. (2010) The receptor preference of influenza viruses. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses 4(3), 147–153.

Objectives  The cell surface receptor used by an influenza virus to infect that cell is an N-acetyl neuraminic acid (NANA) residue terminally linked by an alpha2,3 or alpha2,6 bond to a carbohydrate moiety of a glycoprotein or glycolipid. Our aim was to determine a quick and technically simple method to determine cell receptor usage by whole influenza A virus particles.

Methods  We employed surface plasmon resonance to detect the binding of viruses to fetuin, a naturally occurring glycoprotein that has both alpha2,3- and alpha2,6-linked NANA, and free 3′-sialyllactose or 6′-sialyllactose to compete virus binding. All virus stocks were produced in embryonated chicken’s eggs.

Results  The influenza viruses tested bound preferentially to NANAalpha2,3Gal or to NANAalpha2,6Gal, or showed no preference. Two PR8 viruses had different binding preferences. Binding preferences of viruses correlated well with their known biological properties.

Conclusions  Our data suggest that it is not easy to predict receptor usage by influenza viruses. However, direct experimental determination as described here can inform experiments concerned with viral pathogenesis, biology and structure. In principle, the methodology can be used for any virus that binds to a terminal NANA residue.