Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY, June 2011, p. 5555–5564


Copyright © 2011, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


Passive administration of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) can effectively protect pigs against PRRSV infection. However, after PRRSV infection, pigs typically develop a weak and deferred NAb response. One major reason for such a meager NAb response is the phenomenon of glycan shielding involving GP5, a major glycoprotein carrying one major neutralizing epitope. We describe here a type II PRRSV field isolate (PRRSV-01) that is highly susceptible to neutralization and induces an atypically rapid, robust NAb response in vivo. Sequence analysis shows that PRRSV-01 lacks two N-glycosylation sites, normally present in wild-type (wt) PRRSV strains, in two of its envelope glycoproteins, one in GP3 (position 131) and the other in GP5 (position 51). To determine the influence of these missing N-glycosylation sites on the distinct neutralization phenotype of PRRSV-01, a chimeric virus (FL01) was generated by replacing the structural genes of type II PRRSV strain FL12 cDNA infectious clone with those from PRRSV-01. N-glycosylation sites were reintroduced into GP3 and GP5 of FL01, separately or in combination, by site-directed mutagenesis. Reintroduction of the N-glycosylation site in either GP3 or GP5 allowed recovery of in vivo and in vitro glycan shielding capacity, with an additive effect when these sites were reintroduced into both glycoproteins simultaneously. Although the loss of these glycosylation sites has seemingly occurred naturally (presumably by passage through cell cultures), PRRSV-01 virus quickly regains these glycosylation sites through replication in vivo, suggesting that a strong selective pressure is exerted at these sites. Collectively, our data demonstrate the involvement of an N-glycan moiety located in GP3 in glycan shield interference.