Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) on the surface of cultured cells are important in the first step of efficient respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. We evaluated the importance of sulfation, the major biosynthetic modification of GAGs, using an improved recombinant green fluorescent protein-expressing RSV (rgRSV) to assay infection. Pretreatment of HEp-2 cells with 50 mM sodium chlorate, a selective inhibitor of sulfation, for 48 h prior to inoculation reduced the efficiency of rgRSV infection to 40%. Infection of a CHO mutant cell line deficient in N-sulfation was three times less efficient than infection of the parental CHO cell line, indicating that N-sulfation is important. In contrast, infection of a cell line deficient in 2-O-sulfation was as efficient as infection of the parental cell line, indicating that 2-O-sulfation is not required for RSV infection. Incubating RSV with the purified soluble heparin, the prototype GAG, before inoculation had previously been shown to neutralize its infectivity. Here we tested chemically modified heparin chains that lack their N-, C6-O-, or C2-O-sulfate groups. Only heparin chains lacking the N-sulfate group lost the ability to neutralize infection, confirming that N-sulfation, but not C6-O- or C2-O-sulfation, is important for RSV infection. Analysis of heparin fragments identified the 10-saccharide chain as the minimum size that can neutralize RSV infectivity. Taken together, these results show that, while sulfate modification is important for the ability of GAGs to mediate RSV infection, only certain sulfate groups are required. This specificity indicates that the role of cell surface GAGs in RSV infection is not based on a simple charge interaction between the virus and sulfate groups but instead involves a specific GAG structural configuration that includes N-sulfate and a minimum of 10 saccharide subunits. These elements, in addition to iduronic acid demonstrated previously (L. K. Hallak, P. L. Collins, W. Knudson, and M. E. Peeples, Virology 271:264-275, 2000), partially define cell surface molecules important for RSV infection of cultured cells.
2000. Vol. 74, no 22, 10508-10513 p.