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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Cleavage of influenza a virus hemagglutinin in human respiratory epithelium is cell associated and sensitive to exogenous antiproteases.

Proteolytic cleavage of the hemagglutinin (HA) of human influenza viruses A/Aichi/2/68 (H3N2) and A/ WSN/34 (H1N1) from HA0 to HA1/ HA2 was studied in primary human adenoid epithelial cells (HAEC). HAEC contain a mixture of ciliated and nonciliated secretory cells and mimic the epithelium membrane of the human respiratory tract. Pulse-chase labeling with [(35)S]methionine and Western blot analysis with anti-HA antibodies of cellular and virion polypeptides showed that HAEC cleaved newly synthesized HA0 to HA1/ HA2 ("cleavage from within") and significant amounts of cleaved HA accumulated within cells. It was also shown that HAEC was able to cleave HA0 of incoming virions ("cleavage from without"), whereas the HA0 of nonabsorbed virions free in extracellular fluid were not cleaved, supporting the conclusion that HA0 cleavage in HAEC is cell associated. Low-molecular-weight inhibitors of serine proteases, aprotinin and leupeptin, when added to influenza virus-infected HAEC suppressed HA0 cleavage and reduced the amount of cleaved HA1/ HA2 both in cells and in progeny virions and thus diminished the infectivity of the virus. In contrast, the addition of fetal bovine serum, containing a number of high-molecular-weight antiproteases that compete for proteases in the extracellular environment, did not inhibit influenza virus growth in HAEC. These data suggest that in human respiratory epithelium the cleavage of influenza virus HA containing a single arginine in the proteolytic site (i) is a cell-associated process accomplished by serine-type protease(s) and (ii) is sensitive to low-molecular-weight exogenous inhibitors of serine proteases.[1]


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