Cross-reactive dengue virus (DENV) antibodies directed against the envelope (E) and precursor membrane (prM) proteins are believed to contribute to the development of severe dengue disease by facilitating antibody-dependent enhancement of infection. We and others recently demonstrated that anti-prM antibodies render essentially non-infectious immature DENV infectious in Fcγ-receptor-expressing cells. Immature DENV particles are abundantly present in standard (st) virus preparations due to inefficient processing of prM to M during virus maturation. Structural analysis has revealed that the E protein is exposed in immature particles and this prompted us to investigate whether antibodies to E render immature particles infectious. To this end, we analyzed the enhancing properties of 27 anti-E antibodies directed against distinct structural domains. Of these, 23 bound to immature particles, and 15 enhanced infectivity of immature DENV in a furin-dependent manner. The significance of these findings was subsequently tested in vivo using the well-established West Nile virus (WNV) mouse model. Remarkably, mice injected with immature WNV opsonized with anti-E mAbs or immune serum produced a lethal infection in a dose-dependent manner, whereas in the absence of antibody immature WNV virions caused no morbidity or mortality. Furthermore, enhancement infection studies with standard (st) DENV preparations opsonized with anti-E mAbs in the presence or absence of furin inhibitor revealed that prM-containing particles present within st virus preparations contribute to antibody-dependent enhancement of infection. Taken together, our results support the notion that antibodies against the structural proteins prM and E both can promote pathogenesis by enhancing infectivity of prM-containing immature and partially mature flavivirus particles. © 2012 da Silva Voorham et al.
da Silva Voorham, J. M., Rodenhuis-Zybert, I. A., Nuñez, N. V. A., Colpitts, T. M., van der Ende-Metselaar, H., Fikrig, E., … Smit, J. M. (2012). Antibodies against the envelope glycoprotein promote infectivity of immature dengue virus serotype 2. PLoS ONE, 7(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029957