The H7 subtype of avian influenza viruses (AIV) stands out among other AIV. H7 viruses circulate in ducks, poultry, equine and have repeatedly caused outbreaks of disease in humans. In order to study the pathogenicity factors of H7N1 viruses, several laboratory variants of the A/FPV/Rostock/34 (H7N1) strain were obtained by passages in the chicken lungs. After 10 such passages, a variant was obtained that differed from the parent virus by amino acid substitutions Val109Phe in PB2, Gln621Lys in PB1, Thr32Ala and Leu586Phe in PA Gly140Arg in HA1 and Ala101Thr in HA2 (numbering by H3), Ser82Arg in M2, Arg118Lys and Met124Arg in NS1. No differences were found in proteins NA, NP, M1 and NS2. The resulting variant was hundreds of times more pathogenic for chickens than the original laboratory variant of the virus. The study of intermediate passages showed that the jump in pathogenicity occurs sharply between the fifth and sixth passage through the chicken lungs. By cloning these variants, a pair of strains (R5p and R6p) were obtained, and the complete genomes of these strains were sequenced. Single amino acid substitution was revealed, namely Gly140Arg in HA1. It is important to emphasize that this substitution is a reversion, since Arg is located in position 140 HA1 of original the A/FPV/Rostock/34 (H7N1) virus (GenBank). This amino acid is located at the head part of the hemagglutinin, adjacent to the receptor-binding site. In addition to the increased pathogenicity, R6p differs from R5p by an increased affinity for a negatively charged receptor analogue, an increased affinity for MDCK cells, while maintaining a receptor specificity profile.
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