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Virology. 2003 Jul 20;312(1):222-32.

A trade-off in replication in mosquito versus mammalian systems conferred by a point mutation in the NS4B protein of dengue virus type 4.

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Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


An acceptable live-attenuated dengue virus vaccine candidate should have low potential for transmission by mosquitoes. We have identified and characterized a mutation in dengue virus type 4 (DEN4) that decreases the ability of the virus to infect mosquitoes. A panel of 1248 mutagenized virus clones generated previously by chemical mutagenesis was screened for decreased replication in mosquito C6/36 cells but efficient replication in simian Vero cells. One virus met these criteria and contained a single coding mutation: a C-to-U mutation at nucleotide 7129 resulting in a Pro-to-Leu change in amino acid 101 of the nonstructural 4B gene (NS4B P101L). This mutation results in decreased replication in C6/36 cells relative to wild-type DEN4, decreased infectivity for mosquitoes, enhanced replication in Vero and human HuH-7 cells, and enhanced replication in SCID mice implanted with HuH-7 cells (SCID-HuH-7 mice). A recombinant DEN4 virus (rDEN4) bearing this mutation exhibited the same set of phenotypes. Addition of the NS4B P101L mutation to rDEN4 bearing a 30 nucleotide deletion (Delta30) decreased the ability of the double-mutant virus to infect mosquitoes but increased its ability to replicate in SCID-HuH-7 mice. Although the NS4B P101L mutation decreases infectivity of DEN4 for mosquitoes, its ability to enhance replication in SCID-HuH-7 mice suggests that it might not be advantageous to include this specific mutation in an rDEN4 vaccine. The opposing effects of the NS4B P101L mutation in mosquito and vertebrate systems suggest that the NS4B protein is involved in maintaining the balance between efficient replication in the mosquito vector and the human host.

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