Characterization of the sialic acid binding activity of Influenza A viruses using soluble variants of the H7 and H9 hemagglutinins

Sauer, A.K.; Liang, C.H.; Stech, J.; Peeters, B.P.H.; Quéré, P.; Schwegmann-Wessels, C.; Wu, C.Y.; Herrler, G.


Binding of influenza viruses to target cells is mediated by the viral surface protein hemagglutinin. To determine the presence of binding sites for influenza A viruses on cells and tissues, soluble hemagglutinins of the H7 and H9 subtype were generated by connecting the hemagglutinin ectodomain to the Fc portion of human immunoglobulin G (H7Fc and H9Fc). Both chimeric proteins bound to different cells and tissues in a sialic acid-dependent manner. Pronounced differences were observed between H7Fc and H9Fc, in the binding both to different mammalian and avian cultured cells and to cryosections of the respiratory epithelium of different virus host species (turkey, chicken and pig). Binding of the soluble hemagglutinins was similar to the binding of virus particles, but showed differences in the binding pattern when compared to two sialic acid-specific plant lectins. These findings were substantiated by a comparative glycan array analysis revealing a very narrow recognition of sialoglycoconjugates by the plant lectins that does not reflect the glycan structures preferentially recognized by H7Fc and H9Fc. Thus, soluble hemagglutinins may serve as sialic acid-specific lectins and are a more reliable indicator of the presence of binding sites for influenza virus HA than the commonly used plant lectins.