Activation of TLR2 and TLR6 by Dengue NS1 Protein and Its Implications in the Immunopathogenesis of Dengue Virus Infection

PLoS Pathog. 2015 Jul 30;11(7):e1005053. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005053. eCollection 2015 Jul.


Dengue virus (DV) infection is the most prevalent mosquito-borne viral disease and its manifestation has been shown to be contributed in part by the host immune responses. In this study, pathogen recognition receptors, Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2 and TLR6 were found to be up-regulated in DV-infected human PBMC using immunofluorescence staining, flow cytometry and Western blot analyses. Using ELISA, IL-6 and TNF-α, cytokines downstream of TLR2 and TLR6 signaling pathways were also found to be up-regulated in DV-infected PBMC. IL-6 and TNF-α production by PBMC were reduced when TLR2 and TLR6 were blocked using TLR2 and TLR6 neutralizing antibodies during DV infection. These results suggested that signaling pathways of TLR2 and TLR6 were activated during DV infection and its activation contributed to IL-6 and TNF-α production. DV NS1 protein was found to significantly increase the production of IL-6 and TNF-α when added to PBMC. The amount of IL-6 and TNF-α stimulated by DV NS1 protein was reduced when TLR2 and TLR6 were blocked, suggesting that DV NS1 protein is the viral protein responsible for the activation of TLR2 and TLR6 during DV infection. Secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) reporter assay was used to further confirm activation of TLR2 and TLR6 by DV NS1 protein. In addition, DV-infected and DV NS1 protein-treated TLR6-/- mice have higher survivability compared to DV-infected and DV NS1 protein-treated wild-type mice. Hence, activation of TLR6 via DV NS1 protein could potentially play an important role in the immunopathogenesis of DV infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cricetinae
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dengue Virus*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology*
  • Mice
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / metabolism*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 6 / metabolism*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • NS1 protein, dengue-1 virus
  • TLR2 protein, human
  • TLR6 protein, human
  • Tlr2 protein, mouse
  • Tlr6 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptor 6
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins

Grant support

This study is funded by MINDEF DSTA DIRP Grant (R 182-000-210-232) The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.