Cell-to-cell fusion of (mosquito) cells infected with dengue and St Louis encephalitis (SLE) flaviviruses was induced by exposure to low pH. The parameters of this low pH-induced fusion were examined. Syncytium formation was maximal in cultures 36 to 48 h post-infection and occurred when cultures were maintained at the acid pH for 15 min at 35 °C. The optimal pH range for fusion was 5.0 to 6.5 for dengue virus-infected cells and 5.0 to 5.5 for SLE virus-infected cells. Syncytia were not observed in vertebrate cells (Vero and BHK) under these conditions despite similar virus yields. Fusion was shown to be ATP-dependent and could be prevented by the addition of either polyclonal antiviral antibodies or monoclonal antibody to the envelope glycoprotein. The lysosomotropic amine ammonium chloride inhibited the replication of SLE virus in both mosquito and vertebrate cells, consistent with the idea that low pH-induced fusion is necessary for virus entry into both types.


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