Induction of a protective response in mice by the dengue virus NS3 protein using DNA vaccines

PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25685. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025685. Epub 2011 Oct 21.


The dengue non-structural 3 (NS3) is a multifunctional protein, containing a serino-protease domain, located at the N-terminal portion, and helicase, NTPase and RTPase domains present in the C-terminal region. This protein is considered the main target for CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses during dengue infection, which may be involved in protection. However, few studies have been undertaken evaluating the use of this protein as a protective antigen against dengue, as well as other flavivirus. In the present work, we investigate the protective efficacy of DNA vaccines based on the NS3 protein from DENV2. Different recombinant plasmids were constructed, encoding either the full-length NS3 protein or only its functional domains (protease and helicase), fused or not to a signal peptide (t-PA). The recombinant proteins were successfully expressed in transfected BHK-21 cells, and only plasmids encoding the t-PA signal sequence mediated protein secretion. Balb/c mice were immunized with the different DNA vaccines and challenged with a lethal dose of DENV2. Most animals immunized with plasmids encoding the full-length NS3 or the helicase domain survived challenge, regardless of the presence of the t-PA. However, some mice presented clinical signs of infection with high morbidity (hind leg paralysis and hunched posture), mainly in animal groups immunized with the DNA vaccines based on the helicase domain. On the other hand, inoculation with plasmids encoding the protease domain did not induce any protection, since mortality and morbidity rates in these mouse groups were similar to those detected in the control animals. The cellular immune response was analyzed by ELISPOT with a specific-CD8+ T cell NS3 peptide. Results revealed that the DNA vaccines based on the full-length protein induced the production of INF-γ, thus suggesting the involvement of this branch of the immune system in the protection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • Dengue / immunology
  • Dengue / prevention & control
  • Dengue Virus / genetics
  • Dengue Virus / immunology*
  • Dengue Virus / metabolism*
  • Dengue Virus / pathogenicity
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Vaccines, DNA / immunology*
  • Vaccines, DNA / metabolism
  • Vaccines, DNA / therapeutic use
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / immunology*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / metabolism


  • Vaccines, DNA
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins