Outsmarting Dengue

When vaccines fail us, where should we turn?
To put it bluntly, dengue virus is winning. We have so far failed in our attempts to make a safe and effective dengue virus vaccine, so we need alternatives. Recently, there has been emphasis on alternatives to vasccines (Should Science Pull the Trigger on Antiviral Drugs). A new paper looks at the biochemisty of dengue virus infection, knowledge that might lead us towards alternative strategies to fight this nasty virus.


Dengue Virus Infection Perturbs Lipid Homeostasis in Infected Mosquito Cells. (2012) PLoS Pathog 8(3): e1002584. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002584
Dengue virus causes ~50–100 million infections per year and thus is considered one of the most aggressive arthropod-borne human pathogen worldwide. During its replication, dengue virus induces dramatic alterations in the intracellular membranes of infected cells. This phenomenon is observed both in human and vector-derived cells. Using high-resolution mass spectrometry of mosquito cells, we show that this membrane remodeling is directly linked to a unique lipid repertoire induced by dengue virus infection. Specifically, 15% of the metabolites detected were significantly different between DENV infected and uninfected cells while 85% of the metabolites detected were significantly different in isolated replication complex membranes. Furthermore, we demonstrate that intracellular lipid redistribution induced by the inhibition of fatty acid synthase, the rate-limiting enzyme in lipid biosynthesis, is sufficient for cell survival but is inhibitory to dengue virus replication. Lipids that have the capacity to destabilize and change the curvature of membranes as well as lipids that change the permeability of membranes are enriched in dengue virus infected cells. Several sphingolipids and other bioactive signaling molecules that are involved in controlling membrane fusion, fission, and trafficking as well as molecules that influence cytoskeletal reorganization are also up regulated during dengue infection. These observations shed light on the emerging role of lipids in shaping the membrane and protein environments during viral infections and suggest membrane-organizing principles that may influence virus-induced intracellular membrane architecture.

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