Functional Analysis of the Dengue Virus Genome Using an Insertional Mutagenesis Screen

J Virol. 2018 Mar 14;92(7):e02085-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02085-17. Print 2018 Apr 1.


In the last few decades, dengue virus, an arbovirus, has spread to over 120 countries. Although a vaccine has been approved in some countries, limitations on its effectiveness and a lack of effective antiviral treatments reinforce the need for additional research. The functions of several viral nonstructural proteins are essentially unknown. To better understand the functions of these proteins and thus dengue virus pathogenesis, we embarked on a genomewide transposon mutagenesis screen with next-generation sequencing to determine sites in the viral genome that tolerate 15-nucleotide insertions. Using this approach, we generated support for several published predicted transmembrane and enzymatic domains. Next, we created 7 mutants containing the 15-nucleotide insertion from the original selection and found 6 of them were capable of replication in both mammalian and mosquito tissue culture cells. Interestingly, one mutation had a significant impairment of viral assembly, and this mutation may lead to a better understanding of viral assembly and release. In addition, we created a fully infectious virus expressing a functionally tagged NS4B protein, which will provide a much-needed tool to elucidate the role of NS4B in viral pathogenesis.IMPORTANCE Dengue virus is a mosquito-borne virus distributed in tropical and subtropical regions globally that can result in hospitalization and even death in some cases. Although a vaccine exists, its limitations and a lack of approved antiviral treatments highlight our limited understanding of dengue virus pathogenesis and host immunity. The functions of many viral proteins are poorly understood. We used a previously published approach using transposon mutagenesis to develop tools to study these proteins' functions by adding insertions randomly throughout the viral genomes. These genomes were transferred into cells, and infectious progeny were recovered to determine sites that tolerated insertions, as only the genomes that tolerated insertions would be able to propagate. Using these results, we created viruses with epitope tags, one in the viral structural protein Capsid and one in the viral nonstructural protein NS4B. Further investigation of these mutants may elucidate the roles of Capsid and NS4B during dengue virus infections.

Keywords: Capsid; NS4B; dengue virus; mutagenesis; transposon; virus assembly; virus replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Dengue Virus / genetics*
  • Genome, Viral*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing*
  • Humans
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional*
  • Vero Cells
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / genetics*


  • NS4B protein, flavivirus
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins