Open Access Research article

Transcellular transport of West Nile virus-like particles across human endothelial cells depends on residues 156 and 159 of envelope protein

Rie Hasebe12*, Tadaki Suzuki1, Yoshinori Makino14, Manabu Igarashi3, Satoko Yamanouchi1, Akihiko Maeda2, Motohiro Horiuchi2, Hirofumi Sawa14 and Takashi Kimura1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Pathobiology, Hokkaido University Research Center for Zoonosis Control, Kita 20, Nishi 10, Kita-ku, Sapporo 001-0020, Japan

2 Laboratory of Veterinary Hygiene, Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, Kita 18, Nishi 9, Kita-ku, Sapporo 060-0818, Japan

3 Department of Global Epidemiology, Hokkaido University Research Center for Zoonosis Control, Kita 20, Nishi 10, Kita-ku, Sapporo 001-0020, Japan

4 Global COE program, Hokkaido University, Japan

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:165  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-165

Published: 8 June 2010



West Nile virus (WNV) causes viremia after invasion to the hosts by mosquito bite. Endothelial cells could play an important role in WNV spread from the blood stream into the central nervous system and peripheral tissues. Here, we analyzed the capacity of virus-like particles (VLPs) of the highly virulent NY99 6-LP strain (6-LP VLPs) and the low virulence Eg101 strain (Eg VLPs) to cross cultured human endothelial cells.


6-LP VLPs were transported from the apical to basolateral side of endothelial cells, whereas Eg VLPs were hardly transported. The localization of tight junction marker ZO-1 and the integrity of tight junctions were not impaired during the transport of 6-LP VLPs. The transport of 6-LP VLPs was inhibited by treatment with filipin, which prevents the formation of cholesterol-dependent membrane rafts, suggesting the involvement of raft-associated membrane transport. To determine the amino acid residues responsible for the transport of VLPs, we produced mutant VLPs, in which residues of E protein were exchanged between the 6-LP and Eg strains. Double amino acid substitution of the residues 156 and 159 greatly impaired the transport of VLPs.


Our results suggest that a transcellular pathway is associated with 6-LP VLPs transport. We also showed that the combination of the residues 156 and 159 plays an important role in the transport of VLPs across endothelial cells.