Identification of highly conserved, serotype-specific dengue virus sequences



This is the research work (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211740) from Ms. Li Chuin Chong (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Li_Chong25). She completed her first degree (BSc) in Biomedical Sciences from University Putra Malaysia (UPM) and then pursued a master's degree (MSc) in Bioinformatics at Perdana University School of Data Sciences (PU-ScDS), Malaysia. She is very enthusiastic and passionate about science. 


Short summary of the respective article


The sequence diversity of dengue virus (DENV) is one of the challenges in developing an effective vaccine against the virus. Highly conserved, serotype-specific (HCSS), immune-relevant DENV sequences are attractive candidates for vaccine design, and represent an alternative to the approach of selecting pan-DENV conserved sequences. The former aims to limit the number of possible cross-reactive epitope variants in the population, while the latter aims to limit the cross-reactivity between the serotypes to favour a serotype-specific response. In this research work, she performed a large-scale systematic study to map and characterise HCSS sequences in the DENV proteome.


In the methodology, all reported DENV protein sequence data for each serotype was retrieved from the NCBI Entrez Protein (nr) Database (txid: 12637). The downloaded sequences were then separated according to the individual serotype proteins by use of BLASTp search, and subsequently removed for duplicates and co-aligned across the serotypes. Shannon’s entropy and mutual information (MI) analyses, by use of AVANA, were performed to measure the diversity within and between the serotype proteins to identify HCSS nonamers. The sequences were evaluated for the presence of promiscuous T-cell epitopes by use of NetCTLpan 1.1 and NetMHCIIpan 3.2 server for human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I and class II supertypes, respectively. The predicted epitopes were matched to reported epitopes in the Immune Epitope Database.


In the conclusive results she found that a total of 2321 nonamers met the HCSS selection criteria of entropy < 0.25 and MI > 0.8. Concatenating these resulted in a total of 337 HCSS sequences. DENV4 had the most number of HCSS nonamers; NS5, NS3 and E proteins had among the highest, with none in the C and only one in prM. The HCSS sequences were immune-relevant; 87 HCSS sequences were both reported T-cell epitopes/ligands in human and predicted epitopes, supporting the accuracy of the predictions. A number of the HCSS clustered as immunological hotspots and exhibited putative promiscuity beyond a single HLA supertype. The HCSS sequences represented, on average, ~ 40% of the proteome length for each serotype; more than double of pan-DENV sequences (conserved across the four serotypes), and thus offer a larger choice of sequences for vaccine target selection. HCSS sequences of a given serotype showed significant amino acid difference to all the variants of the other serotypes, supporting the notion of serotype-specificity.

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