Arbovirus infections as screening tools for the identification of viral immunomodulators and host antiviral factors

Emily A. Rex, Dahee Seo, Don B. Gammon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


RNA interference-and genome editing-based screening platforms have been widely used to identify host cell factors that restrict virus replication. However, these screens are typically conducted in cells that are naturally permissive to the viral pathogen under study. Therefore, the robust replication of viruses in control conditions may limit the dynamic range of these screens. Furthermore, these screens may be unable to easily identify cellular defense pathways that restrict virus replication if the virus is well-adapted to the host and capable of countering antiviral defenses. In this article, we describe a new paradigm for exploring virus-host interactions through the use of screens that center on naturally abortive infections by arboviruses such as vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). Despite the ability of VSV to replicate in a wide range of dipteran insect and mammalian hosts, VSV undergoes a post-entry, abortive infection in a variety of cell lines derived from lepidopteran insects, such as the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar). However, these abortive VSV infections can be "rescued" when host cell antiviral defenses are compromised. We describe how VSV strains encoding convenient reporter genes and restrictive L. dispar cell lines can be paired to set-up screens to identify host factors involved in arbovirus restriction. Furthermore, we also show the utility of these screening tools in the identification of virally encoded factors that rescue VSV replication during coinfection or through ectopic expression, including those encoded by mammalian viruses. The natural restriction of VSV replication in L. dispar cells provides a high signal-to-noise ratio when screening for the conditions that promote VSV rescue, thus enabling the use of simplistic luminescence-and fluorescence-based assays to monitor the changes in VSV replication. These methodologies are valuable for understanding the interplay between host antiviral responses and viral immune evasion factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere58244
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number139
StatePublished - Sep 13 2018


  • Antiviral immunity
  • Arbovirus
  • Host range
  • Immunology and infection
  • Issue 139
  • Lepidopteran
  • Lymantria dispar
  • Poxvirus
  • Screen
  • Vaccinia virus
  • Vesicular stomatitis virus
  • Virus-host interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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