Prevalence of avian influenza virus receptor in human respiratory tract

Zeng Feng Zhang, Xiao Hui Fan, Kang Sheng Li, Kai Huang, Dian Zhong Luo, Zhen Bo Feng, Min Yi Wei, Yi Guan, Hong Lin Chen, Jin Xia Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


SAα2,6 and SAα2,3 linked sialic acid molecules on epithelial cell membrane served as receptors for influenza virus, which are specifically recognized by human and avian influenza viruses, respectively. The distribution of these two species of sialic acids in human respiratory tract from different anatomical sites and different age groups was investigated. The results showed that SAα2,3Gal species was prevalent in respiratory bronchiole and lung alveolar epithelium, but was infrequent in trachea, bronchus and bronchiole. On the contrary, the SAα2,6Gal species was more common in the trachea and bronchus and to a lesser degree in the alveolar epithelium. When compared the expression levels of SAα2,6Gal and α2,3Gal in the respiratory tract among different age groups, no significant difference was found. In the ex vivo H5N1 virus infection study, alveolus epithelium were found to be more susceptible to avian influenza than trachea and bronchus epithelial cells. These results suggest that the human respiratory tract, to some extent, is permissive for avian influenza viruses. The currently-observed limited human to human transmission of H5N1 virus may be associated with the different abundance of SAα2,3Gal linkages in human upper respiratory tract among individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1387-1393
Number of pages7
JournalProgress in Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • H5N1
  • Influenza A virus
  • SAα2,3Gal linkage
  • SAα2,6Gal linkage
  • Sialic acid receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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