Structures and functions linked to genome-wide adaptation of human influenza A viruses
Human influenza A viruses elicit short-term respiratory infections with considerable mortality and morbidity. While H3N2 viruses circulate for more than 50 years, the recent introduction of pH1N1 viruses presents an excellent opportunity for a comparative analysis of the genome-wide evolutionary forces acting on both subtypes. Here, we inferred patches of sites relevant for adaptation, i.e. being under positive selection, on eleven viral protein structures, from all available data since 1968 and correlated these with known functional properties. Overall, pH1N1 have more patches than H3N2 viruses, especially in the viral polymerase complex, while antigenic evolution is more apparent for H3N2 viruses. In both subtypes, NS1 has the highest patch and patch site frequency, indicating that NS1-mediated viral attenuation of host inflammatory responses is a continuously intensifying process, elevated even in the longtime-circulating subtype H3N2. We confirmed the resistance-causing effects of two pH1N1 changes against oseltamivir in NA activity assays, demonstrating the value of the resource for discovering functionally relevant changes. Our results represent an atlas of protein regions and sites with links to host adaptation, antiviral drug resistance and immune evasion for both subtypes for further study.