Recent large-scale sequence analyses revealed 'signature' amino acids at specific positions in viral proteins that distinguish human influenza viruses from avian viruses. To determine the role of these host lineage-specific amino acids in the pathogenicity of H5N1 avian influenza viruses, we generated mutant viruses possessing signature amino acids in the PB2, PA and NP proteins of human influenza isolates ('human-like amino acids') in the genetic background of an avian H5N1 virus, and tested their pathogenicity in mice. We found that some of these mutants exhibited enhanced pathogenicity in mice, suggesting the involvement of these host lineage-specific amino acids in the pathogenicity of H5N1 avian influenza viruses in mammals.
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