Dengue virus (DV) is a flavivirus and infects mammalian cells through mosquito vectors. This study investigates the roles of domain III of DV type 2 envelope protein (EIII) in DV binding to the host cell. Recombinant EIII interferes with DV infection to BHK21 and C6/36 cells by blocking dengue virion adsorption to these cells. Inhibition of EIII on BHK21 cells was broad with no serotype specificity; however, inhibition of EIII on C6/36 cells was relatively serotype specific. Soluble heparin completely blocks binding of EIII to BHK21 cells, suggesting that domain III binds mainly to cell surface heparan sulfates. This suggestion is supported by the observation that EIII binds very weakly to gro2C and sog9 mutant mammalian cell lines that lack heparan sulfate. In contrast, heparin does not block binding of EIII to mosquito cells. Furthermore, a synthetic peptide that includes amino acids (aa) 380 to 389 of EIII, IGVEPGQLKL, inhibits binding of EIII to C6/36 but not BHK21 cells. This peptide corresponds to a lateral loop region on domain III of E protein, indicating a possible role of this loop in binding to mosquito cells. In summary, these results suggest that EIII plays an important role in binding of DV type 2 to host cells. In addition, EIII interacts with heparan sulfates when binding to BHK21 cells, and a loop region containing aa 380 to 389 of EIII may participate in DV type 2 binding to C6/36 cells.
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