- Many viruses escape the cellular immune response by downregulating cell surface expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules. However, infection of cells with flaviviruses can upregulate the expression of these molecules. In this study we analyzed the expression of MHC class I in K562 and THP-1 human cell lines that were stably transfected with self-replicating subgenomic dengue virus RNA (replicons) and express all the dengue virus nonstructural proteins together. We show that MHC class I expression is upregulated in the dengue virus replicon-expressing cells and that the binding of natural killer (NK) inhibitory receptors to these cells is augmented. This upregulation results in reduced susceptibility of the dengue virus replicon-expressing cells to NK lysis, indicating a possible mechanism for evasion of the dengue virus from NK cell recognition. Visualizing MHC class I expression in replicon-containing K562 and THP-1 cells by confocal microscopy demonstrated aggregation of MHC class I molecules on the cell surface. Finally, replicon-expressing K562 cells manifested increased TAP (transporter associated with antigen processing) and LMP (low-molecular-mass protein) gene transcription, while replicon-expressing THP-1 cells manifested increased NF-kappaB activity and MHC class I transcription. We suggest that expression of dengue virus nonstructural proteins is sufficient to induce MHC class I upregulation through both TAP-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Additionally, aggregation of MHC class I molecules on the cell membrane also contributes to significantly higher binding of low-affinity NK inhibitory receptors, resulting in lower sensitivity to lysis by NK cells.