Recombinant baculovirus: a flexible drug screening platform for Chikungunya virus.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-transmitted infectious agent that causes an endemic or epidemic outbreak(s) of Chikungunya fever that is reported in almost all countries. This virus is an intense global threat, due to its high rate of contagion and the lack of effective remedies. In this study, we developed two baculovirus expression vector system (BEVS)-based approaches for the screening of anti-CHIKV drugs in Spodoptera frugiperda insect (Sf21) cells and U-2OS cells. First, structural protein of CHIKV was co-expressed through BEVS and thereby induced cell fusion in Sf21 cells. We used an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) to co-express the green fluorescent protein (EGFP) for identifying these fusion events. The EGFP-positive Sf21 cells fused with each other and with uninfected cells to form syncytia. We identified that ursolic acid has potential anti-CHIKV activity in vitro, by using this approach. Second, BacMam virus-based gene delivery has been successfully applied for the transient expression of non-structural proteins with a subgenomic promoter-EGFP (SP-EGFP) cassette in U-2OS cells to act as an in vitro CHIKV replicon system. Our BacMam-based screening system has identified that the potential effects of baicalin and baicalein phytocompounds can inhibit the replicon activity of CHIKV in U-2OS cells. In conclusion, our results suggested that BEVS can be a potential tool for screening drugs against CHIKV.