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Identification of two linear B-cell epitopes from West Nile virus NS1 by screening a phage-displayed random peptide library

En-Cheng Sun12, Jian-Nan Ma12, Ni-Hong Liu1, Tao Yang1, Jing Zhao12, Hong-Wei Geng1, Ling-Feng Wang12, Yong-Li Qin12, Zhi-Gao Bu1, Yin-Hui Yang3, Ross A Lunt4, Lin-Fa Wang4 and Dong-Lai Wu1*

Author affiliations

1 The Key Laboratory of Veterinary Public Health, Ministry of Agriculture, State Key Laboratory of Veterinary Biotechnology, Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, 427 Maduan Street, Nangang District, Harbin 150001, PR China

2 Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, 12 Zhongguancunnandajie, Haidian District, Beijing 100081, PR China

3 Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, 20 Dongda Street, Fengtai District, Beijing 100071, PR China

4 CSIRO Livestock Industries, Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Private Bag 24, Geelong, Victoria 3220, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:160  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-160

Published: 6 July 2011



The West Nile virus (WNV) nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) is an important antigenic protein that elicits protective antibody responses in animals and can be used for the serological diagnosis of WNV infection. Although previous work has demonstrated the vital role of WNV NS1-specific antibody responses, the specific epitopes in the NS1 have not been identified.


The present study describes the identification of two linear B-cell epitopes in WNV NS1 through screening a phage-displayed random 12-mer peptide library with two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) 3C7 and 4D1 that directed against the NS1. The mAbs 3C7 and 4D1 recognized phages displaying peptides with the consensus motifs LTATTEK and VVDGPETKEC, respectively. Exact sequences of both motifs were found in the NS1 (895LTATTEK901 and 925VVDGPETKEC934). Further identification of the displayed B cell epitopes were conducted using a set of truncated peptides expressed as MBP fusion proteins. The data indicated that 896TATTEK901 and925VVDGPETKEC934 are minimal determinants of the linear B cell epitopes recognized by the mAbs 3C7 and 4D1, respectively. Antibodies present in the serum of WNV-positive horses recognized the minimal linear epitopes in Western blot analysis, indicating that the two peptides are antigenic in horses during infection. Furthermore, we found that the epitope recognized by 3C7 is conserved only among WNV strains, whereas the epitope recognized by 4D1 is a common motif shared among WNV and other members of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) serocomplex.


We identified TATTEK and VVDGPETKEC as NS1-specific linear B-cell epitopes recognized by the mAbs 3C7 and 4D1, respectively. The knowledge and reagents generated in this study may have potential applications in differential diagnosis and the development of epitope-based marker vaccines against WNV and other viruses of JEV serocomplex.