The structure of the 2009 influenza H1N1 neuraminidase (NA) — a viral protein targeted by drugs — is reported in an article published online this week in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. The study, which shows that this particular strain’s neuraminidase is different from neuraminidases from other related flu strains, may have implications for future therapeutics and drug development.
The influenza A H1N1 strain, also called “swine flu”, emerged in spring 2009, and has spread worldwide. Neuraminidase (NA) — the viral protein targeted by drugs such as Tamiflu® — belongs to the so-called group 1 based on its sequence. George Gao and colleagues characterize the structure of H1N1 NA, revealing that it lacks a cavity found in all other group 1 NAs known. The work highlights the unusual characteristics of H1N1 and indicates that drugs that bind to this cavity will not work against H1N1.