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Virology. 2009 Apr 25;387(1):222-8. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2009.01.038. Epub 2009 Feb 27.

West Nile virus envelope protein glycosylation is required for efficient viral transmission by Culex vectors.

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Arbovirus Laboratories, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, 5668 State Farm Road, Slingerlands, NY 12159, USA.


Many, but not all, strains of West Nile virus (WNV) contain a single N-linked glycosylation site on their envelope (E) proteins. Previous studies have shown that E-glycosylated strains are more neuroinvasive in mice than non-glycosylated strains. E protein glycosylation also appears to play a role in attachment and entry of WNV into host cells in vitro; however, studies examining how E protein glycosylation affects the interactions of WNV with its mosquito vectors in vivo have not yet been performed. We mutated the E protein glycosylation site from NYS to IYS in a previously described full-length clone of the NY99 genotype of WNV (WT), resulting in a virus that lacked the glycan at aa154. WNV-N154I replicated less efficiently than WNV-WT in Culex mosquito tissues, although the extent of the decrease was greater in Cx. pipiens than in Cx. tarsalis. Following peroral infection, mosquitoes infected with WNV-N154I were less likely to transmit virus than those infected with WNV-WT. Interestingly, all but one of the mosquitoes infected with WNV-N154I transmitted a revertant virus, suggesting that there is strong selective pressure toward E protein glycosylation. Together these data suggest that loss of the glycan at aa154 on the WNV E protein can severely restrict viral spread in the mosquito vector.

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