Although transmission of avian influenza viruses to mammals, particularly humans, has been repeatedly documented, adaptation and sustained transmission in the new host is a rare event that in the case of humans may result in pandemics. Host restriction involves multiple genetic determinants. Among the known determinants of host range, key determinants have been identified on the genes coding for the nucleoprotein and polymerase proteins that, together with the viral RNA segments, form the ribonucleoproteins (RNPs). The RNP genes form host-specific lineages and harbor host-associated genetic signatures. The functional significance of these determinants has been studied by reassortment and reverse genetics experiments, underlining the influence of the global genetic context. In some instances the molecular mechanisms have been approached, pointing to the importance of the polymerase activity and interaction with cellular host factors. Better knowledge of determinants of host restriction will allow monitoring of the pandemic potential of avian influenza viruses.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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