Previous studies have shown that antibodies produced against strategic flavivirus epitopes play an important role in recovery and immunity. Definition of the conformation and location of these epitopes and the degree of their conservation among flaviviruses is important to understanding the humoral response to flavivirus infection. In this study we have examined epitopes recognized by 14 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) produced to the envelope (E) and non-structural (NS1) proteins of Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVE). These antibodies were analysed for specificity, neutralization, haemagglutination inhibition (HI) and competitive binding. We have identified six distinct epitopes on the E protein which are located in four non-overlapping domains. MAbs to epitopes in one domain neutralized virus, were specific for MVE and Japanese encephalitis virus, and reacted with epitopes resistant to reduction. Two other E domains, one specific to MVE and the other shared by all flaviviruses, also contained neutralization sites and were stabilized by disulphide bonds. The fourth domain on E was conserved among the flaviviruses, sensitive to SDS denaturation and did not induce neutralizing antibody. Studies with MVE NS1 MAbs revealed that they were mostly type-specific, unreactive with conserved epitopes, and unreactive in HI and neutralization tests. The six epitopes identified on NS1 did not overlap and represent antigenic domains either resistant or sensitive to reduction. Immunoblotting of viral proteins in MVE-infected C6/36 cells revealed two distinct forms of NS1 and high proteins of 97K and 108K that represented disulphide-linked heterodimers of E and NS1.


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