UNLABELLED - The four dengue virus (DENV) serotypes, DENV1 through 4, are endemic throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world. While first infection confers long-term protective immunity against viruses of the infecting serotype, a second infection with virus of a different serotype carries a greater risk of severe dengue disease, including dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. Recent studies demonstrate that humans exposed to DENV infections develop neutralizing antibodies that bind to quaternary epitopes formed by the viral envelope (E) protein dimers or higher-order assemblies required for the formation of the icosahedral viral envelope. Here we show that the quaternary epitope target of the human DENV3-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibody (MAb) 5J7 can be partially transplanted into a DENV1 strain by changing the core residues of the epitope contained within a single monomeric E molecule. MAb 5J7 neutralized the recombinant DENV1/3 strain in cell culture and was protective in a mouse model of infection with the DENV1/3 strain. However, the 5J7 epitope was only partially recreated by transplantation of the core residues because MAb 5J7 bound and neutralized wild-type (WT) DENV3 better than the DENV1/3 recombinant. Our studies demonstrate that it is possible to transplant a large number of discontinuous residues between DENV serotypes and partially recreate a complex antibody epitope, while retaining virus viability. Further refinement of this approach may lead to new tools for measuring epitope-specific antibody responses and new vaccine platforms.
IMPORTANCE - Dengue virus is the most important mosquito-borne pathogen of humans worldwide, with approximately one-half the world's population living in regions where dengue is endemic. Dengue immunity following infection is robust and thought to be conferred by antibodies raised against the infecting virus. However, the specific viral components that these antibodies recognize and how they neutralize the virus have been incompletely described. Here we map a region on dengue virus serotype 3 recognized by the human neutralizing antibody 5J7 and then test the functional significance of this region by transplanting it into a serotype 1 virus. Our studies demonstrate a region on dengue virus necessary for 5J7 binding and neutralization. Our work also demonstrates the technical feasibility of engineering dengue viruses to display targets of protective antibodies. This technology can be used to develop new dengue vaccines and diagnostic assays.
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