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J Virol. 2005 Nov;79(21):13262-74.

N-linked glycosylation of west nile virus envelope proteins influences particle assembly and infectivity.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania, 225 Johnson Pavilion, 3610 Hamilton Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


West Nile virus (WNV) encodes two envelope proteins, premembrane (prM) and envelope (E). While the prM protein of all WNV strains contains a single N-linked glycosylation site, not all strains contain an N-linked site in the E protein. The presence of N-linked glycosylation on flavivirus E proteins has been linked to virus production, pH sensitivity, and neuroinvasiveness. Therefore, we examined the impact of prM and E glycosylation on WNV assembly and infectivity. Similar to other flaviviruses, expression of WNV prM and E resulted in the release of subviral particles (SVPs). Removing the prM glycosylation site in a lineage I or II strain decreased SVP release, as did removal of the glycosylation site in a lineage I E protein. Addition of the E protein glycosylation site in a lineage II strain that lacked this site increased SVP production. Similar results were obtained in the context of either reporter virus particles (RVPs) or infectious lineage II WNV. RVPs or virions bearing combinations of glycosylated and nonglycosylated forms of prM and E could infect mammalian, avian, and mosquito cells (BHK-21, QT6, and C6/36, respectively). Those particles lacking glycosylation on the E protein were modestly more infectious per genome copy on BHK-21 and QT6 cells, while this absence greatly enhanced the infection of C6/36 cells. Thus, glycosylation of WNV prM and E proteins can affect the efficiency of virus release and infection in a manner that is cell type and perhaps species dependent. This suggests a multifaceted role for envelope N-linked glycosylation in WNV biology and tropism.

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