The amantadine-sensitive ion channel activity of influenza A virus M2 protein was discovered through understanding the two steps in the virus life cycle that are inhibited by the antiviral drug amantadine: virus uncoating in endosomes and M2 protein-mediated equilibration of the intralumenal pH of the trans Golgi network. Recently it was reported that influenza virus can undergo multiple cycles of replication without M2 ion channel activity (T. Watanabe, S. Watanabe, H. Ito, H. Kida, and Y. Kawaoka, J. Virol. 75:5656-5662, 2001). An M2 protein containing a deletion in the transmembrane (TM) domain (M2-del29-31) has no detectable ion channel activity, yet a mutant virus was obtained containing this deletion. Watanabe and colleagues reported that the M2-del29-31 virus replicated as efficiently as wild-type (wt) virus. We have investigated the effect of amantadine on the growth of four influenza viruses: A/WSN/33; N31S-M2WSN, a mutant in which an asparagine residue at position 31 in the M2 TM domain was replaced with a serine residue; MUd/WSN, which possesses seven RNA segments from WSN plus the RNA segment 7 derived from A/Udorn/72; and A/Udorn/72. N31S-M2WSN was amantadine sensitive, whereas A/WSN/33 was amantadine resistant, indicating that the M2 residue N31 is the sole determinant of resistance of A/WSN/33 to amantadine. The growth of influenza viruses inhibited by amantadine was compared to the growth of an M2-del29-31 virus. We found that the M2-del29-31 virus was debilitated in growth to an extent similar to that of influenza virus grown in the presence of amantadine. Furthermore, in a test of biological fitness, it was found that wt virus almost completely outgrew M2-del29-31 virus in 4 days after cocultivation of a 100:1 ratio of M2-del29-31 virus to wt virus, respectively. We conclude that the M2 ion channel protein, which is conserved in all known strains of influenza virus, evolved its function because it contributes to the efficient replication of the virus in a single cycle.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science