Neutralization susceptibility of African swine fever virus is dependent on the phospholipid composition of viral particles

Virology. 1997 Feb 17;228(2):180-9. doi: 10.1006/viro.1996.8391.


In this study we have investigated the generation of African swine fever (ASF) virus variants resistant to neutralizing antibodies after cell culture propagation. All highly passaged ASF viruses analyzed were resistant to neutralization by antisera from convalescent pigs or antibodies generated against individual viral proteins which neutralized low-passage viruses. A molecular analysis of neutralizable and nonneutralizable virus isolates by sequencing of the genes encoding for neutralizing proteins revealed that the absence of neutralization of high-passage viruses is not due to antigenic variability of critical epitopes. A comparative analysis of phospholipid composition of viral membranes between low- and high-passage viruses revealed differences in the relative amount of phosphatidylinositol in these two groups of viruses, independent of the cells in which the viruses were grown. Further purification of low- and high-passage viruses by Percoll sedimentation showed differences in the phospholipid composition identical to those found with the partially purified viruses and confirmed the susceptibility of these viruses to neutralization. The incorporation of phosphatidylinositol into membranes of high-passage viruses rendered a similar neutralization susceptibility to low-passage viruses, in which this is a major phospholipid. In contrast, other phospholipids did not interfere with high-passage virus neutralization, suggesting that phosphatidylinositol is essential for a correct epitope presentation to neutralizing antibodies. Additionally, the removal of phosphatidylinositol form a low-passage virus by a specific lipase transformed this virus from neutralizable to nonneutralizable. These data constitute clear evidence of the importance of the lipid composition of the viral membranes for the protein recognition by antibodies and may account in part for the past difficulties in reproducibly demonstrating ASF virus-neutralizing antibodies by using high-passage viruses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • African Swine Fever Virus / chemistry*
  • African Swine Fever Virus / immunology*
  • African Swine Fever Virus / isolation & purification
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Phospholipids / chemistry*
  • Serial Passage
  • Swine
  • Vero Cells
  • Virion


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Phospholipids