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J Virol. 2009 Jul;83(13):6494-507. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00286-09. Epub 2009 Apr 22.

Human monoclonal antibodies against West Nile virus induced by natural infection neutralize at a postattachment step.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


West Nile virus (WNV) is a neurotropic flavivirus that is now a primary cause of epidemic encephalitis in North America. Studies of mice have demonstrated that the humoral immune response against WNV limits primary infection and protects against a secondary challenge. The most-potent neutralizing mouse monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) recognize an epitope on the lateral ridge of domain III (DIII-lr) of the envelope (E) protein. However, studies with serum from human patients show that antibodies against the DIII-lr epitope comprise, at best, a minor component of the human anti-WNV antibody response. Herein, we characterize in detail two WNV-specific human MAbs, CR4348 and CR4354, that were isolated from B-cell populations of convalescent patients. These MAbs strongly neutralize WNV infection of cultured cells, protect mice against lethal infection in vivo, and yet poorly recognize recombinant forms of the E protein. Instead, CR4348 and CR4354 bind determinants on intact WNV virions and subviral particles in a pH-sensitive manner, and neutralization is altered by mutations at the dimer interface in domain II and the hinge between domains I and II, respectively. CR4348 and CR4354 human MAbs neutralize infection at a postattachment step in the viral life cycle, likely by inhibiting acid-induced fusion within the endosome.

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