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Open Access Research

Chikungunya virus adaptation to Aedes albopictus mosquitoes does not correlate with acquisition of cholesterol dependence or decreased pH threshold for fusion reaction

Konstantin A Tsetsarkin1*, Charles E McGee2 and Stephen Higgs1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA

2 Carolina Vaccine Institute, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

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Virology Journal 2011, 8:376  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-8-376

Published: 29 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito transmitted alphavirus that recently caused several large scale outbreaks/epidemics of arthritic disease in tropics of Africa, Indian Ocean basin and South-East Asia. This re-emergence event was facilitated by genetic adaptation (E1-A226V substitution) of CHIKV to a newly significant mosquito vector for this virus; Aedes albopictus. However, the molecular mechanism explaining the positive effect of the E1-A226V mutation on CHIKV fitness in this vector remains largely unknown. Previously we demonstrated that the E1-A226V substitution is also associated with attenuated CHIKV growth in cells depleted by cholesterol.

Methods

In this study, using a panel of CHIKV clones that varies in sensitivity to cholesterol, we investigated the possible relationship between cholesterol dependence and Ae. albopictus infectivity.

Results

We demonstrated that there is no clear mechanistic correlation between these two phenotypes. We also showed that the E1-A226V mutation increases the pH dependence of the CHIKV fusion reaction; however, subsequent genetic analysis failed to support an association between CHIKV dependency on lower pH, and mosquito infectivity phenotypes.

Conclusion

the E1-A226V mutation probably acts at different steps of the CHIKV life cycle, affecting multiple functions of the virus.

Keywords:
Chikungunya virus; Aedes albopictus; cholesterol; pH threshold of fusion