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UNLABELLED - Natural dengue virus (DENV) infection in humans induces antibodies (Abs) that neutralize the serotype of infection in a potent and type-specific manner; however, most Abs generated in response to infection are serotype cross-reactive and poorly neutralizing. Such cross-reactive Abs may enhance disease during subsequent infection with a virus of a different DENV serotype. Previous screening assays for DENV-specific human B cells and antibodies, using viral and recombinant antigens, mainly led to the isolation of dominant nonneutralizing B cell clones. To improve upon our ability to recover and study rare but durable and potently neutralizing DENV-specific Abs, we isolated human DENV-specific B cells by using a primary screen of binding to live virus, followed by a secondary screen with a high-throughput, flow cytometry-based neutralization assay to identify DENV-specific B cell lines prior to generation of hybridomas. Using this strategy, we identified several new classes of serotype-specific and serotype-cross-neutralizing anti-DENV monoclonal Abs (MAbs), including ultrapotent inhibitory antibodies with neutralizing activity concentrations of <10 ng/ml. We isolated serotype-specific neutralizing Abs that target diverse regions of the E protein, including epitopes present only on the intact, fully assembled viral particle. We also isolated a number of serotype-cross-neutralizing MAbs, most of which recognized a region in E protein domain I/II containing the fusion loop. These data provide insights into targets of the protective Ab-mediated immune response to natural DENV infection, which will prove valuable in the design and testing of new experimental DENV vaccines.
IMPORTANCE - Dengue virus infection is one of the most common mosquito-borne diseases and occurs in most countries of the world. Infection of humans with dengue virus induces a small number of antibodies that inhibit the infecting strain but also induces a large number of antibodies that can bind but do not inhibit dengue virus strains of other serotypes. We used a focused screening strategy to discover a large number of rare potently inhibiting antibodies, and we mapped the regions on the virus that were recognized by such antibodies. Our studies revealed that humans have the potential to generate very potent antibodies directed to diverse regions of the dengue virus surface protein. These studies provide important new information about protection from dengue virus infection that will be useful in the design and testing of new experimental dengue vaccines for humans.
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