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Virology. 2006 Apr 10;347(2):333-42. Epub 2006 Jan 19.

Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus entry mechanism requires late endosome formation and resists cell membrane cholesterol depletion.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555, USA.


Virus envelope proteins determine receptor utilization and host range. The choice of receptor not only permits specific targeting of cells that express it, but also directs the virus into specific endosomal trafficking pathways. Disrupting trafficking can result in loss of virus infectivity due to redirection of virions to non-productive pathways. Identification of the pathway or pathways used by a virus is, thus, important in understanding virus pathogenesis mechanisms and for developing new treatment strategies. Most of our understanding of alphavirus entry has focused on the Old World alphaviruses, such as Sindbis and Semliki Forest virus. In comparison, very little is known about the entry route taken by more pathogenic New World alphaviruses. Here, we use a novel contents mixing assay to identify the cellular requirements for entry of a New World alphavirus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV). Expression of dominant negative forms of key endosomal trafficking genes shows that VEEV must access clathrin-dependent endocytic vesicles for membrane fusion to occur. Unexpectedly, the exit point is different from Old World alphaviruses that leave from early endosomes. Instead, VEEV also requires functional late endosomes. Furthermore, unlike the Old World viruses, VEEV entry is insensitive to cholesterol sequestration from cell membranes and may reflect a need to access an endocytic compartment that lacks cholesterol. This indicates fundamental differences in the entry route taken by VEEV compared to Old World alphaviruses.

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