We have studied changes of epitopes on the haemagglutinin molecule (HA) of H1N1 influenza viruses isolated between 1977 and 1986. For this purpose monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) were raised against the HA of the influenza A/England/333/80 and A/Yamagata/120/86 strain viruses. In order to define the amino acid residues responsible for the change of epitopes, we prepared several HA cDNAs modified by site-directed mutagenesis and cloned them into a simian virus 40 expression vector (SVHA). The substitution of glycine with serine at position 125c (suffix indicates presence in H1 but not in H3 subtype HAs) on the HA of the influenza A/USSR/90/77 strain virus resulted in the loss of epitope 110 (epitopes were named after MAbs) and created new epitopes 139 and 15, which were observed on the HA of A/England/333/80 and a few isolates from 1983. These new epitopes disappeared from the HA in some of the isolates in 1983 and most of the isolates in 1984 and 1986. The disappearance of epitopes 139 and 15 seems to be associated with the loss of epitope W18, which was identified on the HA of A/USSR/90/77. We suggested previously that amino acid residue 189 was involved in epitope W18. We therefore expressed an HA protein with two amino acid substitutions at positions 189 and 125c and found that the conversion of glutamine to lysine at position 189 in SVHA-67 prevented the expression of epitopes 139 and 15.


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