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      A single N-linked glycosylation site in the Japanese encephalitis virus prM protein is critical for cell type-specific prM protein biogenesis, virus particle release, and pathogenicity in mice.

      Journal of Biology

      Animals, Cell Line, Tumor, Cricetinae, Culicidae, Encephalitis Virus, Japanese, metabolism, Genome, Viral, Glycosylation, Humans, Mice, Models, Biological, Mutation, Neuroblastoma, Point Mutation, RNA, Viral Matrix Proteins, chemistry

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          The prM protein of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) contains a single potential N-linked glycosylation site, N(15)-X(16)-T(17), which is highly conserved among JEV strains and closely related flaviviruses. To investigate the role of this site in JEV replication and pathogenesis, we manipulated the RNA genome by using infectious JEV cDNA to generate three prM mutants (N15A, T17A, and N15A/T17A) with alanine substituting for N(15) and/or T(17) and one mutant with silent point mutations introduced into the nucleotide sequences corresponding to all three residues in the glycosylation site. An analysis of these mutants in the presence or absence of endoglycosidases confirmed the addition of oligosaccharides to this potential glycosylation site. The loss of prM N glycosylation, without significantly altering the intracellular levels of viral RNA and proteins, led to an approximately 20-fold reduction in the production of extracellular virions, which had protein compositions and infectivities nearly identical to those of wild-type virions; this reduction occurred at the stage of virus release, rather than assembly. This release defect was correlated with small-plaque morphology and an N-glycosylation-dependent delay in viral growth. A more conservative mutation, N15Q, had the same effect as N15A. One of the four prM mutants, N15A/T17A, showed an additional defect in virus growth in mosquito C6/36 cells but not human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y or hamster BHK-21 cells. This cell type dependence was attributed to abnormal N-glycosylation-independent biogenesis of prM. In mice, the elimination of prM N glycosylation resulted in a drastic decrease in virulence after peripheral inoculation. Overall, our findings indicate that this highly conserved N-glycosylation motif in prM is crucial for multiple stages of JEV biology: prM biogenesis, virus release, and pathogenesis.

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