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Yellow fever virus envelope protein expressed in insect cells is capable of syncytium formation in lepidopteran cells and could be used for immunodetection of YFV in human sera

Maria CES Barros1, Tatiane GCM Galasso1, Antônio JM Chaib2, Nicolas Degallier3, Tatsuya Nagata1 and Bergmann M Ribeiro1*

Author Affiliations

1 Cell Biology Department, University of Brasília, Brasília, DF, CEP 70910-970, Brazil

2 Laboratório Central do Distrito Federal - LACEN-DF, Brasília, DF, CEP 70830-010, Brazil

3 Institut de Recherches pour le Développement UMR182, LOCEAN-IPSL UPMC, 4 pl. Jussieu, case 100, Paris, 75252 Cedex 05, France

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Virology Journal 2011, 8:261  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-8-261

Published: 27 May 2011



Yellow fever is an haemorrhagic disease caused by a virus that belongs to the genus Flavivirus (Flaviviridae family) and is transmitted by mosquitoes. Among the viral proteins, the envelope protein (E) is the most studied one, due to its high antigenic potencial. Baculovirus are one of the most popular and efficient eukaryotic expression system. In this study a recombinant baculovirus (vSynYFE) containing the envelope gene (env) of the 17D vaccine strain of yellow fever virus was constructed and the recombinant protein antigenicity was tested.


Insect cells infected with vSynYFE showed syncytium formation, which is a cytopathic effect characteristic of flavivirus infection and expressed a polypeptide of around 54 kDa, which corresponds to the expected size of the recombinant E protein. Furthermore, the recombinant E protein expression was also confirmed by fluorescence microscopy of vSynYFE-infected insect cells. Total vSynYFE-infected insect extracts used as antigens detected the presence of antibodies for yellow fever virus in human sera derived from yellow fever-infected patients in an immunoassay and did not cross react with sera from dengue virus-infected patients.


The E protein expressed by the recombinant baculovirus in insect cells is antigenically similar to the wild protein and it may be useful for different medical applications, from improved diagnosis of the disease to source of antigens for the development of a subunit vaccine.