Characterization of influenza virus sialic acid receptors in minor poultry species

Brian Kimble, Gloria Ramirez Nieto, Daniel R. Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


It is commonly accepted that avian influenza viruses (AIVs) bind to terminal 2,3 sialic acid (SA) residues whereas human influenza viruses bind to 2,6 SA residues. By a series of amino acid changes on the HA surface protein, AIVs can switch receptor specificity and recognize 2,6 SA positive cells, including human respiratory epithelial cells. Animal species, like pigs and Japanese quail, that contain both 2,3 and 2,6 SA become ideal environments for receptor switching. Here, we describe the SA patterns and distributions in 6 common minor domestic poultry species: Peking duck, Toulouse geese, Chinese ring-neck pheasant, white midget turkey, bobwhite quail, and pearl guinea fowl. Lectins specific to 2,3 and 2,6 SA (Maakia amurensis agglutinin and Sambuca nigra agglutinin, respectively) were used to detect SA by an alkaline phosphotase-based method and a fluorescent-based method. Differences in SA moieties and their ability to bind influenza viruses were visualized by fluorescent labeling of 4 different H3N2 influenza viruses known to be specific for one receptor or the other. The geese and ducks showed 2,3 SA throughout the respiratory tract and marginal 2,6 SA only in the colon. The four other avian species showed both 2,3 and 2,6 SA in the respiratory tract and the intestines. Furthermore, the turkey respiratory tract showed a positive correlation between age and 2,6 SA levels. The fact that these birds have both avian and human flu receptors, combined with their common presence in backyard farms and live bird markets worldwide, mark them as potential mixing bowl species and necessitates improved surveillance and additional research about the role of these birds in influenza host switching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number365
JournalVirology journal
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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