Age-dependent heterogeneity in the antigenic effects of mutations to influenza hemagglutinin

Welsh FC, Eguia RT, Lee JM, Haddox HK, Galloway J, Nguyen VVN, Loes AN, Huddleston J, Yu TC, Le MQ, Nguyen TDN, Nguyen TLT, Greninger AL, Chu HY, Englund JA, Bedford T, Matsen FA, Boni MF, Bloom JD. 2023. bioRxiv: 2023.12.12.571235.


Human influenza virus evolves to escape neutralization by polyclonal antibodies. However, we have a limited understanding of how the antigenic effects of viral mutations vary across the human population, and how this heterogeneity affects virus evolution. Here we use deep mutational scanning to map how mutations to the hemagglutinin (HA) proteins of the A/Hong Kong/45/2019 (H3N2) and A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2) strains affect neutralization by serum from individuals of a variety of ages. The effects of HA mutations on serum neutralization differ across age groups in ways that can be partially rationalized in terms of exposure histories. Mutations that fixed in influenza variants after 2020 cause the greatest escape from sera from younger individuals. Overall, these results demonstrate that influenza faces distinct antigenic selection regimes from different age groups, and suggest approaches to understand how this heterogeneous selection shapes viral evolution.