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Title: The antigenic evolution of human influenza A haemagglutinin
Author: Lees, William Dunbar
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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A detailed understanding of the B-cell response to influenza A haemagglutinin is key to the accurate matching of vaccines to seasonal strains, and may inform the development of broader spectrum vaccines. In this study, I develop techniques for predicting the location of the epitopes of protective antibodies by observing the physical locations of amino acid substitutions in human wild-type strains. By linking the understanding gained from this analysis with a large body of assay data, I present a model which can predict antigenic distance from HA1 amino acid sequences and which meets or exceeds the predictive power of previously developed models while retaining generality. An interesting conclusion from the epitope analysis discussed above is that antibodies to the HA head bind in two regions. The antigenic evolution of influenza H3N2 is more punctuated than its genetic evolution. I propose that the dual regions might contribute to the punctuated nature of antigenic evolution, and explore this through the use of a simple simulation. Stalk-binding antibodies to HA have attracted much interest in recent years: a number of broad-binding examples have been isolated, and the slower evolution of the stalk gives hope that these may provide broad protection against future strains. Stalk-binding neutralising antibodies to H3 are known to bind in two regions, and I use data from crystal studies to identify the constituent residues of these regions, which I term antigenic sites F and G, in a manner that is consistent with previous analyses of the constituent residues of HA1 antigenic sites A-E. I analyse the degree of conservation of residues in sites F and G, and conclude that there have been episodes of change in the H3 stalk which are consistent with antigenic evolution.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available