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Virology. 1992 Dec;191(2):921-31.

The Murray Valley encephalitis virus prM protein confers acid resistance to virus particles and alters the expression of epitopes within the R2 domain of E glycoprotein.

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Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Fort Collins, Colorado 80522.


To study the role of the precursor to the membrane protein (prM) in flavivirus maturation, we inhibited the proteolytic processing of the Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus prM to membrane protein in infected cells by adding the acidotropic agent ammonium chloride late in the virus replication cycle. Viruses purified from supernatants of ammonium chloride-treated cells contained prM protein and were unable to fuse C6/36 mosquito cells from without. When ammonium chloride was removed from the cells, both the processing of prM and the fusion activity of the purified viruses were partially restored. By using monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) specific for the envelope (E) glycoprotein of MVE virus, we found that at least three epitopes were less accessible to their corresponding antibodies in the prM-containing MVE virus particles. Amino-terminal sequencing of proteolytic fragments of the E protein which were reactive with sequence-specific peptide antisera or MAb enabled us to estimate the site of the E protein interacting with the prM to be within amino acids 200 to 327. Since prM-containing viruses were up to 400-fold more resistant to a low pH environment, we conclude that the E-prM interaction might be necessary to protect the E protein from irreversible conformational changes caused by maturation into the acidic vesicles of the exocytic pathway.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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