Reassortment and insertion-deletion are strategies for the evolution of influenza B viruses in nature

Jonathan A. McCullers, George C. Wang, Shiqin He, Robert G. Webster

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133 Scopus citations


The evolution of influenza B viruses is poorly understood. Reassortment of influenza B viruses in nature as a means of genetic variation has not been considered to be a major contributor to their evolution. However, the current practice of assigning evolutionary relationships by antigenic analysis of the hemagglutinin of influenza B viruses would fail to detect reassortants. In this study, influenza B viruses isolated within the past 10 years from sites in the United States and China were studied by nucleotide sequencing of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes and construction of phylogenetic trees to assess evolutionary relationships. A group of viruses represented by B/Houston/1/92 possess a hemagglutinin derived from a B/Yamagata/16/88-like strain and a neuraminidase derived from a B/Victoria/2/87-like strain. A second reassortment event between the hemagglutinin of a B/Yamagata/16/88- like virus closely related to the B/Beijing/184/93 strain and the neuraminidase of a B/Victoria/2/87-like strain is represented by a single virus, B/Memphis/3/93. The neuraminidase of the reassortant viruses is most closely related to that of B/Victoria/2/87-like viruses currently circulating in Nanchang, China. A pattern of insertions and deletions in the hemagglutinin and the neuraminidase of different strains of influenza B viruses is observed. Reassortment plays a role in the evolution of influenza B viruses and may necessitate a change in the methods used to assess and identify new influenza viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7343-7348
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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