Dengue virus (DENV) non-structural protein 1 (NS1) is involved in multiple aspects of the DENV lifecycle. Importantly, it is secreted from infected cells as a hexameric lipoparticle that mediates vascular damage that is a hallmark of severe dengue. Although the secretion of NS1 is known to be important in DENV pathogenesis, the exact molecular features of NS1 that are required for its secretion from cells are not fully understood. In this study, we employed random point mutagenesis in the context of an NS1 expression vector encoding a C-terminal HiBiT luminescent peptide tag to identify residues within NS1 that are essential for its secretion. Using this approach, we identified 10 point mutations that corresponded with impaired NS1 secretion, with in silico analyses indicating that the majority of these mutations are located within the β-ladder domain. Additional studies on two of these mutants, V220D and A248V, revealed that they prevented viral RNA replication, while studies using a DENV NS1-NS5 viral polyprotein expression system demonstrated that these mutations resulted in a more reticular NS1 localisation pattern and failure to detect mature NS1 at its predicted molecular weight by Western blotting using a conformation-specific monoclonal antibody. Together, these studies demonstrate that the combination of a luminescent peptide tagged NS1 expression system with random point mutagenesis enables rapid identification of mutations that alter NS1 secretion. Two such mutations identified via this approach revealed residues that are essential for correct NS1 processing or maturation and viral RNA replication.
- dengue virus
- NS1 secretion