Epistatic interactions can moderate the antigenic effect of substitutions in haemagglutinin of influenza H3N2 virus
We previously showed that single amino acid substitutions at seven positions in haemagglutinin determined major antigenic change of influenza H3N2 virus. Here, the impact of two such substitutions was tested in 11 representative H3 haemagglutinins to investigate context-dependence effects. The antigenic effect of substitutions introduced at haemagglutinin position 145 was fully independent of the amino acid context of the representative haemagglutinins. Antigenic change caused by substitutions introduced at haemagglutinin position 155 was variable and context-dependent. Our results suggest that epistatic interactions with contextual amino acids in the haemagglutinin can moderate the magnitude of antigenic change.