Ebola virus glycoprotein: proteolytic processing, acylation, cell tropism, and detection of neutralizing antibodies.
Using the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) pseudotype system, we studied the functional properties of the Ebola virus glycoprotein (GP). Amino acid substitutions at the GP cleavage site, which reduce glycoprotein cleavability and viral infectivity in some viruses, did not appreciably change the infectivity of VSV pseudotyped with GP. Likewise, removal of two acylated cysteine residues in the transmembrane region of GP showed no discernible effects on infectivity. Although most filoviruses are believed to target endothelial cells and hepatocytes preferentially, the GP-carrying VSV showed greater affinity for epithelial cells than for either of these cell types, indicating that Ebola virus GP does not necessarily have strong tropism toward endothelial cells and hepatocytes. Finally, when it was used to screen for neutralizing antibodies against Ebola virus GP, the VSV pseudotype system allowed us to detect strain-specific neutralizing activity that was inhibited by secretory GP (SGP). This finding provides evidence of shared neutralizing epitopes on GP and SGP molecules and indicates the potential of SGP to serve as a decoy for neutralizing antibodies.