Dynamics of the magnitude, breadth and depth of the antibody response at epitope level following dengue infection

Francesca Falconi-Agapito, Karen Kerkhof, Xiomara Merino, Johan Michiels, Marjan Van Esbroeck, Koen Bartholomeeusen, Michael Talledo, Kevin K. Ariën

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Dengue is a major public health problem in tropical and sub-tropical regions worldwide. Since the Zika epidemic and the increased co-circulation of other arboviruses, the serology-based diagnosis of dengue has become more problematic due to the high antigenic resemblance, especially among the flavivirus family. Therefore, a more comprehensive understanding of the diversity, specificity and temporal evolution of the antibody response following dengue infection is needed. In order to close this knowledge gap, we used a high-density peptide microarray of 9,072 linear peptides covering the entire proteome diversity of dengue, Zika, yellow fever and chikungunya viruses. The IgM and IgG antibody responses were measured against the designed microarray in symptomatic dengue infected individuals from an arbovirus endemic area in Peru and in overseas travelers returning to Belgium, as representatives of multiple-exposed and primary infections, respectively. Serum samples were collected longitudinally across four time points over the period of six months in Peru and over two time points in travelers. We show that epitopes eliciting the strongest flavivirus cross-reactive antibodies, in both primary and secondary infections were concentrated in the capsid, E, NS1, NS3 and NS5 proteins. The IgG antibody responses against NS1 and NS3 followed a rise-and-fall pattern, with peak titers between two to four weeks after onset of illness. The response to the E and NS5 proteins increased rapidly in the acute phase and was maintained at stable levels until at least 6 months after illness. A more scattered IgM antibody reactivity across the viral proteome was observed in the acute phase of the disease and that persisted through the 6-month window. The magnitude, breadth (i.e. number of unique epitopes targeted) and depth (i.e. number of epitope variants recognized) of the IgG response was higher in secondary infections compared to primary infections. For IgM antibodies, the magnitude of the response was higher in primary infected individuals whereas the breadth and depth of the response was lower in this group compared with the endemic subjects. Finally, through this arboviral proteome-wide epitope mapping, we were able to identify IgM and IgG dengue-specific epitopes which can be useful serological markers for dengue diagnosis and serostatus determination.

Original languageEnglish
Article number686691
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • peptide microarray
  • dengue
  • antibody epitopes
  • antibody evolution
  • flavivirus


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