Determining novel mechanisms of dengue virus NS1-induced vascular leak. The four dengue virus serotypes (DENV1-4) are mosquito-borne flaviviruses that cause ~100 million cases of dengue annually worldwide. Severe disease is thought to result from immunopathogenic processes involving serotype cross-reactive antibodies and T cells that induce vasoactive cytokines, which cause endothelial disruption and vascular leakage leading to shock. To date, no viral proteins have been directly implicated in triggering endothelial permeability. DENV non-structural protein 1 (NS1) is secreted by infected cells and circulates in patients' blood during acute infection, and high levels of sNS1 are associated with severe disease. We have recently shown that injection of mice with DENV NS1 protein in the absence of virus induces both vascular leak and an increase in key inflammatory cytokines, while simultaneous administration of NS1 with a sublethal dose of DENV2 results in a lethal vascular leak syndrome. We have also demonstrated that NS1 from DENV1-4, but not from the related flavivirus West Nile virus (WNV), triggers endothelial barrier dysfunction and increased permeability of human endothelial cell monolayers in vitro. Finally, we found that NS1 vaccination and anti-NS1 antibodies can protect against NS1-mediated pathogenesis and endothelial permeability. These findings add an important and previously-overlooked component to the causes of dengue vascular leak, identify a new potential target for anti-dengue therapeutics, and support inclusion of NS1 in dengue vaccines. Here we propose to use the in vitro and in vivo models of DENV pathogenesis we have established to define the contributions of secreted NS1 protein to dengue pathogenesis. Our in vitro model allows us to examine the mechanism(s) of how NS1 leads to loss of endothelial barrier integrity, a key component of DENV pathogenesis resulting in vascular leak. Our murine model of DENV infection recapitulates vascular leak symptoms seen in humans, and we have developed both systemic and localized models of vascular permeability.
In Aim 1, we will identify endothelial cell-specific responses to DENV NS1 and define the mechanism of NS1-induced endothelial permeability both in vitro and in vivo.
In Aim 2, we will define the cytokine-dependent effector mechanisms activated by DENV NS1 and determine their relative contribution to NS1-dependent increases in vascular permeability in vivo and ex vivo.
In Aim 3, using a structure/function approach with DENV/WNV NS1 chimeras and site-specific mutants, together with a battery of genetically deficient mice and inhibitors of specific host signaling pathways, we will determine the molecular determinants of NS1 that are responsible for pathogenic functions in vitro and in vivo. Overall, these studies will advance a critical new area of investigation regarding the novel functions of DENV NS1 in inducing vascular leak and define the molecular determinants of NS1-induced pathogenesis, directly contributing to improving our understanding of severe dengue disease and opening new pathways for treatment.
Determining novel mechanisms of dengue virus NS1-induced vascular leak The mosquito-borne dengue virus (DENV) causes ~100 million cases of dengue annually worldwide; severe disease is thought to result from immunopathogenic processes involving vasoactive cytokines, which cause endothelial disruption and vascular leakage leading to shock. We have recently shown DENV non-structural protein 1 (NS1), which is secreted by infected cells and circulates at high levels in patients' blood during acute infection, induces vascular leak and an increase in key inflammatory cytokines in mice and triggers increased permeability of human endothelial cell monolayers in vitro. Here we propose to use our in vitro and in vivo models of DENV vascular leak to define the novel contributions of secreted NS1 protein to dengue pathogenesis, advancing a critical new area of research, directly contributing to improving our understanding of severe dengue disease, and opening new pathways for treatment.
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