Bhk-21 cell clones differ in chikungunya virus infection and mxra8 receptor expression

Peiqi Yin, Margaret Kielian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Baby hamster kidney-21 (BHK-21) cells are widely used to propagate and study many animal viruses using infection and transfection techniques. Among various BHK-21 cell clones, the fibroblast-like BHK-21/C-13 line and the epithelial-like BHK-21/WI-2 line are commonly used cell clones for alphavirus research. Here we report that BHK-21/WI-2 cells were significantly less susceptible to primary infection by the alphavirus chikungunya virus (CHIKV) than were BHK-21/C-13 cells. The electroporation efficiency of alphavirus RNA into BHK-21/WI-2 was also lower than that of BHK-21/C-13. The growth of CHIKV was decreased in BHK-21/WI-2 compared to BHK-21/C-13, while primary infection and growth of the alphavirus Sindbis virus (SINV) were equivalent in the two cell lines. Our results suggested that CHIKV entry could be compromised in BHK-21/WI-2. Indeed, we found that the mRNA level of the CHIKV receptor MXRA8 in BHK-21/WI-2 cells was much lower than that in BHK-21/C-13 cells, and exogenous expression of either human MXRA8 or hamster MXRA8 rescued CHIKV infection. Our results affirm the importance of the MXRA8 receptor for CHIKV infection, and document differences in its expression in two clonal cell lines derived from the original BHK-21 cell cultures. Our results also indicate that CHIKV propagation and entry studies in BHK-21 cells will be significantly more efficient in BHK-21/C-13 than in BHK-21/WI-2 cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number949
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Alphavirus
  • BHK-21 cells
  • Chikungunya virus
  • MXRA8
  • Receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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