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Evidence that Equine rhinitis A virus VP1 is a target of neutralizing antibodies and participates directly in receptor binding.

Warner S, Hartley CA, Stevenson RA, Ficorilli N, Varrasso A, Studdert MJ, Crabb BS

  • Journal Journal of virology

  • Published 11 Oct 2001

  • Volume 75

  • ISSUE 19

  • Pagination 9274-81

  • DOI 10.1128/JVI.75.19.9274-9281.2001


Equine rhinitis A virus (ERAV) is a respiratory pathogen of horses and is classified as an Aphthovirus, the only non-Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) member of this genus. In FMDV, virion protein 1 (VP1) is a major target of protective antibodies and is responsible for viral attachment to permissive cells via an RGD motif located in a distal surface loop. Although both viruses share considerable sequence identity, ERAV VP1 does not contain an RGD motif. To investigate antibody and receptor-binding properties of ERAV VP1, we have expressed full-length ERAV VP1 in Escherichia coli as a glutathione S-transferase (GST) fusion protein (GST-VP1). GST-VP1 reacted specifically with antibodies present in serum from a rabbit immunized with purified ERAV virions and also in convalescent-phase sera from horses experimentally infected with ERAV. An antiserum raised in rabbits to GST-VP1 reacted strongly with viral VP1 and effectively neutralized ERAV infection in vitro. Using a flow cytometry-based binding assay, we found that GST-VP1, but not other GST fusion proteins, bound to cell surface receptors. This binding was reduced in a dose-dependent manner by the addition of purified ERAV virions, demonstrating the specificity of this interaction. A separate cell-binding assay also implicated GST-VP1 in receptor binding. Importantly, anti-GST-VP1 antibodies inhibited the binding of ERAV virions to Vero cells, suggesting that these antibodies exert their neutralizing effect by blocking viral attachment. Thus ERAV VP1, like its counterpart in FMDV, appears to be both a target of protective antibodies and involved directly in receptor binding. This study reveals the potential of recombinant VP1 molecules to serve as vaccines and diagnostic reagents for the control of ERAV infections.