West Nile Virus Dissemination and Tissue Tropisms in Orally Infected Culex Pipiens Quinquefasciatus

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. Summer 2004;4(2):109-22. doi: 10.1089/1530366041210729.


We investigated the spatial and temporal distribution of West Nile virus (WNV) in organs and tissues of Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus mosquitoes for up to 27 days following oral infection. WNV antigen was detected in paraffin-embedded mosquitoes by immunohistochemistry. Immunofluorescence assays were performed on dissected salivary glands and midguts and analyzed by confocal microscopy. We evaluated the route of virus dissemination following midgut escape and the relative importance of amplifying tissues in mosquito susceptibility to infection. WNV infection was persistent in all tissues analyzed including the midgut, salivary glands, nervous system, and fat body and only declined in the cytoplasm of posterior midgut epithelial cells over time. The phenomenon of cell-to-cell spread was observed in the midgut epithelium and WNV intensely infected both circular and longitudinal muscles of the same organ. It is possible that muscle tissue serves as a conduit for virus dissemination and contributes to WNV amplification, particularly late in infection. These findings provide insight into WNV infection dynamics in a highly susceptible, epidemiologically important, North American vector. Our results pave the way for future studies to analyze physical and biological barriers to WNV dissemination in less competent mosquitoes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis
  • Culex / virology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insect Vectors / virology*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Tissue Distribution
  • West Nile Fever / transmission
  • West Nile virus / immunology
  • West Nile virus / physiology*


  • Antigens, Viral