- Dengue virus (DV) and West Nile virus (WNV) have become a global concern due to their widespread distribution and their ability to cause a variety of human diseases. Antiviral immune defenses involve NK cells. In the present study, we investigated the interaction between NK cells and these two flaviviruses. We show that the NK-activating receptor NKp44 is involved in virally mediated NK activation through direct interaction with the flavivirus envelope protein. Recombinant NKp44 directly binds to purified DV and WNV envelope proteins and specifically to domain III of WNV envelope protein; it also binds to WNV virus-like particles. These WNV-virus-like particles and WNV-domain III of WNV envelope protein directly bind NK cells expressing high levels of NKp44. Functionally, interaction of NK cells with infective and inactivated WNV results in NKp44-mediated NK degranulation. Finally, WNV infection of cells results in increased binding of rNKp44 that is specifically inhibited by anti-WNV serum. WNV-infected target cells induce IFN-gamma secretion and augmented lysis by NKp44-expressing primary NK cells that are blocked by anti-NKp44 Abs. Our findings show that triggering of NK cells by flavivirus is mediated by interaction of NKp44 with the flavivirus envelope protein.