Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), a mosquito-borne zoonotic flavivirus, is an enveloped positive-strand RNA virus that can cause a spectrum of clinical manifestations, ranging from mild febrile illness to severe neuroinvasive disease. Today, several killed and live vaccines are available in different parts of the globe for use in humans to prevent JEV-induced diseases, yet no antivirals are available to treat JEV-associated diseases. Despite the progress made in vaccine research and development, JEV is still a major public health problem in southern, eastern, and southeastern Asia, as well as northern Oceania, with the potential to become an emerging global pathogen. In viral replication, the entry of JEV into the cell is the first step in a cascade of complex interactions between the virus and target cells that is required for the initiation, dissemination, and maintenance of infection. Because this step determines cell/tissue tropism and pathogenesis, it is a promising target for antiviral therapy. JEV entry is mediated by the viral glycoprotein E, which binds virions to the cell surface (attachment), delivers them to endosomes (endocytosis), and catalyzes the fusion between the viral and endosomal membranes (membrane fusion), followed by the release of the viral genome into the cytoplasm (uncoating). In this multistep process, a collection of host factors are involved. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the viral and cellular components involved in JEV entry into host cells, with an emphasis on the initial virus-host cell interactions on the cell surface.
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