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Virology. 2000 Jun 5;271(2):264-75.

Iduronic acid-containing glycosaminoglycans on target cells are required for efficient respiratory syncytial virus infection.

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Immunology/Microbiology, Biochemistry and Pathology, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an important human respiratory pathogen, particularly in infants. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) have been implicated in the initiation of RSV infection of cultured cells, but it is not clear what type of GAGs and GAG components are involved, whether the important GAGs are on the virus or the cell, or what the magnitude is of their contribution to infection. We constructed and rescued a recombinant green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing RSV (rgRSV) and used this virus to develop a sensitive system to assess and quantify infection by flow cytometry. Evaluation of a panel of mutant Chinese hamster ovary cell lines that are genetically deficient in various aspects of GAG synthesis showed that infection was reduced up to 80% depending on the type of GAG deficiency. Enzymatic removal of heparan sulfate and/or chondroitin sulfate from the surface of HEp-2 cells also reduced infection, and the removal of both reduced infection even further. Blocking experiments in which RSV was preincubated with various soluble GAGs revealed the relative blocking order of: heparin > heparan sulfate > chondroitin sulfate B. Iduronic acid is a component common to these GAGs. GAGs that do not contain iduronic acid, namely, chondroitin sulfate A and C and hyaluronic acid, did not inhibit infection. A role for iduronic acid-containing GAGs in RSV infection was confirmed by the ability of basic fibroblast growth factor to block infection, because basic fibroblast growth factor binds to GAGs containing iduronic acid. Pretreatment of cells with protamine sulfate, which binds and blocks GAGs, also reduced infection. In these examples, infection was reduced by pretreatment of the virus with soluble GAGs, pretreatment of the cells with GAG-binding molecules, pretreatment of the cells with GAG-destroying enzymes or in cells genetically deficient in GAGs. These results establish that the GAGs involved in RSV infection are present on the cell rather than on the virus particle. Thus, the presence of cell surface GAGs containing iduronic acid, like heparan sulfate and chondroitin sulfate B, is required for efficient RSV infection in cell culture.

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