1. Evolutionary Biology
  2. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
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Dengue genetic divergence generates within-serotype antigenic variation, but serotypes dominate evolutionary dynamics

  1. Sidney M Bell
  2. Leah Katzelnick
  3. Trevor Bedford  Is a corresponding author
  1. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, United States
  2. University of California, Berkeley, United States
Research Article
  • Cited 8
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e42496 doi: 10.7554/eLife.42496


Dengue virus (DENV) exists as four genetically distinct serotypes, each of which is historically assumed to be antigenically uniform. However, recent analyses suggest that antigenic heterogeneity may exist within each serotype, but its source, extent and impact remain unclear. Here, we construct a sequence-based model to directly map antigenic change to underlying genetic divergence. We identify 49 specific substitutions and four colinear substitution clusters that robustly predict dengue antigenic relationships. We report moderate antigenic diversity within each serotype, resulting in variation in genotype-specific patterns of heterotypic cross-neutralization. We also quantify the impact of antigenic variation on real-world DENV population dynamics, and find that serotype-level antigenic fitness is a dominant driver of dengue clade turnover. These results provide a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between dengue genetic and antigenic evolution, and quantify the effect of antigenic fitness on dengue evolutionary dynamics.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Sidney M Bell

    Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Leah Katzelnick

    Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Trevor Bedford

    Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-4039-5794


National Science Foundation (DGE-1256082)

  • Sidney M Bell

Pew Charitable Trusts

  • Trevor Bedford

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (R35GM119774-01)

  • Trevor Bedford

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (R01AI114703-01)

  • Leah Katzelnick

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (P01AI106695)

  • Leah Katzelnick

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Neil M Ferguson, Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: October 2, 2018
  2. Accepted: August 5, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: August 6, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: September 6, 2019 (version 2)


© 2019, Bell et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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