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      Influenza virus receptors in the human airway

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          Abstract

          Although more than 100 people have been infected by H5N1 influenza A viruses, human-to-human transmission is rare. What are the molecular barriers limiting human-to-human transmission? Here we demonstrate an anatomical difference in the distribution in the human airway of the different binding molecules preferred by the avian and human influenza viruses. The respective molecules are sialic acid linked to galactose by an alpha-2,3 linkage (SAalpha2,3Gal) and by an alpha-2,6 linkage (SAalpha2,6Gal). Our findings may provide a rational explanation for why H5N1 viruses at present rarely infect and spread between humans although they can replicate efficiently in the lungs.

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          Most cited references 7

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          Avian influenza A (H5N1) infection in humans.

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            Molecular basis for high virulence of Hong Kong H5N1 influenza A viruses.

             M Hatta (2001)
            In 1997, an H5N1 influenza A virus was transmitted from birds to humans in Hong Kong, killing 6 of the 18 people infected. When mice were infected with the human isolates, two virulence groups became apparent. Using reverse genetics, we showed that a mutation at position 627 in the PB2 protein influenced the outcome of infection in mice. Moreover, high cleavability of the hemagglutinin glycoprotein was an essential requirement for lethal infection.
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              Human and avian influenza viruses target different cell types in cultures of human airway epithelium.

              The recent human infections caused by H5N1, H9N2, and H7N7 avian influenza viruses highlighted the continuous threat of new pathogenic influenza viruses emerging from a natural reservoir in birds. It is generally believed that replication of avian influenza viruses in humans is restricted by a poor fit of these viruses to cellular receptors and extracellular inhibitors in the human respiratory tract. However, detailed mechanisms of this restriction remain obscure. Here, using cultures of differentiated human airway epithelial cells, we demonstrated that influenza viruses enter the airway epithelium through specific target cells and that there were striking differences in this respect between human and avian viruses. During the course of a single-cycle infection, human viruses preferentially infected nonciliated cells, whereas avian viruses as well as the egg-adapted human virus variant with an avian virus-like receptor specificity mainly infected ciliated cells. This pattern correlated with the predominant localization of receptors for human viruses (2-6-linked sialic acids) on nonciliated cells and of receptors for avian viruses (2-3-linked sialic acids) on ciliated cells. These findings suggest that although avian influenza viruses can infect human airway epithelium, their replication may be limited by a nonoptimal cellular tropism. Our data throw light on the mechanisms of generation of pandemic viruses from their avian progenitors and open avenues for cell level-oriented studies on the replication and pathogenicity of influenza virus in humans.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                March 2006
                March 22 2006
                March 2006
                : 440
                : 7083
                : 435-436
                Article
                10.1038/440435a
                16554799
                92f5da51-22e2-4d49-af8b-28f533332971
                © 2006

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