The antigenic relationships between Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus and several other flaviviruses have been investigated using anti-JE virus monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). Seventeen MAbs directed against envelope protein E of JE virus were characterized and divided into eight MAb groups based on reactivity patterns in haemagglutination inhibition test, neutralization (N) test, ELISA and competitive binding assay with JE virus. The results suggest the existence of at least eight epitopes on the E protein of JE viruses. Analysis of cross-reactivity of the antibodies with several other flaviviruses indicated these findings. (i) JE virus, belonging to West Nile (WN) subgroup, is antigenically closely related to viruses in the same subgroup, i.e. Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE), WN and St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) viruses. Of these three viruses, JE virus has the closest relationship with MVE virus. (ii) WN virus is relatively close to JE virus, whereas SLE virus is the least closely related. (iii) Dengue viruses types 1 and 2, which belong to another subgroup of flaviviruses, show markedly less antigenic homology to JE virus. (iv) One of the critical N sites on the E protein showed JE virus specificity. (v) Some cross-reactive antibodies which did not neutralize JE virus showed low but significant N activity against several other flaviviruses. Mixtures of several MAbs, which showed different reactivity patterns, potentiated the N activity against not only JE virus but also other members of the WN subgroup of flaviviruses, namely MVE, WN and SLE viruses.


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