Functional Analysis of West Nile Virus Proteins in Human Cells

Methods Mol Biol. 2016;1435:45-60. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-3670-0_5.


West Nile Virus (WNV) lineage 2 strains have been responsible for large outbreaks of neuroinvasive disease in the United States and Europe between 1999 and 2012. Different strains in this lineage have previously been shown to produce either severe or mild neuroinvasive disease in mice. Phylogenetic and amino acid comparisons between highly or less virulent lineage 2 strains have demonstrated that the nonstructural (NS) gene(s) were most variable. However, the roles of some of the NS proteins in virus life cycle are unknown. The aim of this chapter is to describe simple computational and experimental approaches that can be used to: (1) explore the possible roles of the NS proteins in virus life cycle and (2) test whether the subtle amino acid changes in WNV NS gene products contributed to the evolution of more virulent strains. The computational approaches include methods based on: (1) sequence similarity, (2) sequence motifs, and (3) protein membrane topology predictions. Highlighted experimental procedures include: (1) isolation of viral RNA from WNV-infected cells, (2) cDNA synthesis and PCR amplification of WNV genes, (3) cloning into GFP expression vector, (4) bacterial transformation, (5) plasmid isolation and purification, (6) transfection using activated dendrimers (Polyfect), and (7) immunofluorescence staining of transfected mammalian cells.

Keywords: Cloning; Computation; Immunofluorescence; Protein topology; Sequence similarity; Transfection; WNV.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Phylogeny
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Vero Cells
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / genetics*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / metabolism*
  • West Nile virus / classification
  • West Nile virus / genetics*
  • West Nile virus / pathogenicity*


  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins