J Vet Sci.  2011 Mar;12(1):7-13. 10.4142/jvs.2011.12.1.7.

Expression patterns of influenza virus receptors in the respiratory tracts of four species of poultry

  • 1Laboratory of Veterinary Anatomy, College of Veterinary Medicine, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Korea. ssnahm@konkuk.ac.kr
  • 2Avian Diseases Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Korea.


The primary determinant of influenza virus infectivity is the type of linkage between sialic acid and oligosaccharides on the host cells. Hemagglutinin of avian influenza viruses preferentially binds to sialic acids linked to galactose by an alpha-2,3 linkage whereas hemagglutinin of human influenza viruses binds to sialic acids with an alpha-2,6 linkage. The distribution patterns of influenza receptors in the avian respiratory tracts are of particular interest because these are important for initial viral attachment, replication, and transmission to other species. In this study, we examined the distribution patterns of influenza receptors in the respiratory tract of chickens, ducks, pheasants, and quails because these species have been known to act as intermediate hosts in interspecies transmission. Lectin histochemistry was performed to detect receptor-bearing cells. Cell-specific distribution of the receptors was determined and expression densities were compared. We observed species-, site-, and cell-specific variations in receptor expression. In general, receptor expression was the highest in quails and lowest in ducks. Pheasants and quails had abundant expression of both types of receptors throughout the respiratory tract. These results indicate that pheasants and quails may play important roles as intermediate hosts for the generation of influenza viruses with pandemic potential.


influenza receptors; interspecies transmission; lectin histochemistry; respiratory tracts
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