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PLoS Pathog. 2015 Apr 23;11(4):e1004852. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004852. eCollection 2015 Apr.

Dual miRNA targeting restricts host range and attenuates neurovirulence of flaviviruses.

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Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.


Mosquito-borne flaviviruses are among the most significant arboviral pathogens worldwide. Vaccinations and mosquito population control programs remain the most reliable means for flavivirus disease prevention, and live attenuated viruses remain one of the most attractive flavivirus vaccine platforms. Some live attenuated viruses are capable of infecting principle mosquito vectors, as demonstrated in the laboratory, which in combination with their intrinsic genetic instability could potentially lead to a vaccine virus reversion back to wild-type in nature, followed by introduction and dissemination of potentially dangerous viral strains into new geographic locations. To mitigate this risk we developed a microRNA-targeting approach that selectively restricts replication of flavivirus in the mosquito host. Introduction of sequences complementary to a mosquito-specific mir-184 and mir-275 miRNAs individually or in combination into the 3'NCR and/or ORF region resulted in selective restriction of dengue type 4 virus (DEN4) replication in mosquito cell lines and adult Aedes mosquitos. Moreover a combined targeting of DEN4 genome with mosquito-specific and vertebrate CNS-specific mir-124 miRNA can silence viral replication in two evolutionally distant biological systems: mosquitoes and mouse brains. Thus, this approach can reinforce the safety of newly developed or existing vaccines for use in humans and could provide an additional level of biosafety for laboratories using viruses with altered pathogenic or transmissibility characteristics.

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