The anti-immune dengue subgenomic flaviviral RNA is present in vesicles in mosquito saliva and is associated with increased infectivity

Shih Chia Yeh, Tania Strilets, Wei Lian Tan, David Castillo, Hacène Medkour, Félix Rey-Cadilhac, Idalba M. Serrato-Pomar, Florian Rachenne, Avisha Chowdhury, Vanessa Chuo, Sasha R. Azar, Moirangthem Kiran Singh, Rodolphe Hamel, Dorothée Missé, R. Manjunatha Kini, Linda J. Kenney, Nikos Vasilakis, Marc A. Marti-Renom, Guy Nir, Julien PomponMariano A. Garcia-Blanco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Mosquito transmission of dengue viruses to humans starts with infection of skin resident cells at the biting site. There is great interest in identifying transmission-enhancing factors in mosquito saliva in order to counteract them. Here we report the discovery of high levels of the anti-immune subgenomic flaviviral RNA (sfRNA) in dengue virus 2-infected mosquito saliva. We established that sfRNA is present in saliva using three different methods: northern blot, RT-qPCR and RNA sequencing. We next show that salivary sfRNA is protected in detergent-sensitive compartments, likely extracellular vesicles. In support of this hypothesis, we visualized viral RNAs in vesicles in mosquito saliva and noted a marked enrichment of signal from 3’UTR sequences, which is consistent with the presence of sfRNA. Furthermore, we show that incubation with mosquito saliva containing higher sfRNA levels results in higher virus infectivity in a human hepatoma cell line and human primary dermal fibroblasts. Transfection of 3’UTR RNA prior to DENV2 infection inhibited type I and III interferon induction and signaling, and enhanced viral replication. Therefore, we posit that sfRNA present in salivary extracellular vesicles is delivered to cells at the biting site to inhibit innate immunity and enhance dengue virus transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1011224
Pages (from-to)e1011224
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Flavivirus/genetics
  • Subgenomic RNA
  • Saliva/metabolism
  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Culicidae
  • Virus Replication
  • RNA, Viral/genetics
  • Dengue
  • Aedes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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