Dengue virus NS1 triggers endothelial permeability and vascular leak that is prevented by NS1 vaccination.


The four dengue virus serotypes (DENV1 to DENV4) are mosquito-borne flaviviruses that cause up to ~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 together induce vasoactive cytokines, causing vascular leakage that leads to shock. However, no viral proteins have been directly implicated in triggering endothelial permeability, which results in vascular leakage. DENV nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) is secreted and circulates in patients' blood during acute infection; high levels of NS1 are associated with severe disease. We show that inoculation of mice with DENV NS1 alone induces both vascular leakage and production of key inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, simultaneous administration of NS1 with a sublethal dose of DENV2 results in a lethal vascular leak syndrome. We also demonstrate that NS1 from DENV1, DENV2, DENV3, and DENV4 triggers endothelial barrier dysfunction, causing increased permeability of human endothelial cell monolayers in vitro. These pathogenic effects of physiologically relevant amounts of NS1 in vivo and in vitro were blocked by NS1-immune polyclonal mouse serum or monoclonal antibodies to NS1, and immunization of mice with NS1 from DENV1 to DENV4 protected against lethal DENV2 challenge. These findings add an important and previously overlooked component to the causes of dengue vascular leak, identify a new potential target for dengue therapeutics, and support inclusion of NS1 in dengue vaccines.

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