We have probed the antigenic structure of the influenza B virus hemagglutinin (HA) with monoclonal antibodies specific for the HA of influenza B virus, B/Oregon/5/80. Seventeen laboratory-selected antigenic variants of this virus were analyzed by hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) assays or ELISA and an operational antigenic map was constructed. In addition, the monoclonal antibodies were tested in a competitive binding assay to construct a topological map of the antigenic sites. In contrast to the influenza A virus HA, only a single immunodominant antigenic site composed of several overlapping clusters of epitopes was defined by the HI-positive antibodies. Three variants could be distinguished from the parental virus with polyclonal antisera by HI and infectivity reduction assays suggesting that changes in this antigenic site may be sufficient to provide an epidemiological advantage to influenza B viruses in nature. In addition, two nonoverlapping epitopes of unknown biological significance were identified in the competitive binding analysis by two monoclonal antibodies with no HI activity and little or no neutralizing activity. We previously identified single amino acid substitutions in the HAs of the antigenic variants used in this study (M. T. Berton, C. W. Naeve, and R. G. Webster 1984, J. Virol 52, 919-927). These changes occurred in regions of the molecule which, by amino acid sequence alignment, appeared to correspond to proposed antigenic sites A and B on the H3 HA of influenza A virus. Correlation with the antigenic map established in this report, however, demonstrates that the amino acid residues actually contribute to a single antigenic site on the influenza B virus HA and suggests significant differences in the antigenic structures of the influenza A and B virus HAs.
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