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Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) replicates in a variety of cells, the exact intracellular site of virus assembly is somewhat obscure. The aims of this study were to investigate the role Golgi apparatus in JEV maturation by utilizing two Golgi-disrupting agents- brefeldin A (BFA) and monensin (MN) that inhibit virus assembly at specific cellular sites. JEV-infected porcine kidney stable (PS) cells were treated with BFA (2 ug/ mL) or MN (10 uM/ mL) at different h post-infection (p. i.) and the virus contents were assayed after 48 h p. i. The treated cells were further subjected to immuno-fluorescence (IF) using antibodies directed against JEV envelope glycoprotein (gpE) for localization of intracellular viral antigen as well as the antigen expression on the cell surface. Addition of BFA or MN to cells immediately after virus adsorption or at 4 h and 12 h postinfection (p. i.), resulted in 4- or 8- fold reduction in infectious virus contents along with inhibition of its transport to the cell surface, indicating an essential role of the Golgi-associated membranes in JEV replication. Interestingly, the antigenicity of the virus, in contrast, remained unaffected as no difference in epitope presentation/ expression was observed in BFA/MN-treated and control (untreated) infected cells even though in the former cells a loss of hemagglutinating (HA) activity was observed. Further, BFA addition at 18 h or 24 h p. i. showed only a negligible effect on virus suggesting that once the viral-associated membranes are formed, these membranes appear to be stable. In contrast, the inhibition with MN persisted even after its addition to cells at 18 h and 24 h p. i., indicating its sustained effect on JEV. Although BFA inhibits protein transport from endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi complex while MN inhibits transport from medial to trans cisternae of the Golgi complex, none of the two agents however affected the gpE synthesis and folding essentially required for the epitope presentation/expression within the cells. As flaviviruses are known to encode three glycoproteins (gps) within their genomes i. e., prM, E, and NS, it will be worthwhile in future to determine whether vesicular transport occurs within or between the virus-induced membranes and how the individual JEV-encoded proteins are transported to discrete compartments further remain to be seen.
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