Zika virus is related to dengue virus, and here we report that a subset of antibodies targeting a conformational epitope isolated from patients with dengue virus also potently neutralize Zika virus. The crystal structure of two of these antibodies in complex with the envelope protein of Zika virus reveals the details of a conserved epitope, which is also the site of interaction of the envelope protein dimer with the precursor membrane (prM) protein during virus maturation. Comparison of the Zika and dengue virus immunocomplexes provides a lead for rational, epitope-focused design of a universal vaccine capable of eliciting potent cross-neutralizing antibodies to protect simultaneously against both Zika and dengue virus infections.
To aid in the development of antivirals, we present two high-resolution crystal structures of the ZIKV NS5 methyltransferase: one bound to S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and the other bound to SAM and 7-methyl guanosine diphosphate (7-MeGpp). We identify features of ZIKV NS5 methyltransferase that lend to structure-based antiviral drug discovery. Specifically, SAM analogs with functionalities on the Cβ atom of the methionine portion of the molecules that occupy the RNA binding tunnel may provide better specificity relative to human RNA methyltransferases.
The ZIKV helicase, which plays a pivotal role in viral RNA replication, is an attractive target for therapy. We determined the crystal structures of ZIKV helicase-ATP-Mn2+ and ZIKV helicase-RNA. This is the first structure of any flavivirus helicase bound to ATP. Comparisons with related flavivirus helicases have shown that although the critical P-loop in the active site has variable conformations among different species, it adopts an identical mode to recognize ATP/Mn2+. The structure of ZIKV helicase-RNA has revealed that upon RNA binding, rotations of the motor domains can cause significant conformational changes. Strikingly, although ZIKV and dengue virus (DENV) apo-helicases share conserved residues for RNA binding, their different manners of motor domain rotations result in distinct individual modes for RNA recognition. It suggests that flavivirus helicases could have evolved a conserved engine to convert chemical energy from nucleoside triphosphate to mechanical energy for RNA unwinding, but different motor domain rotations result in variable RNA recognition modes to adapt to individual viral replication.
ZIKV relies on its NS2B/NS3 protease for polyprotein processing; hence, this enzyme is an attractive drug target. The 2.7 Å crystal structure of ZIKV protease in complex with a peptidomimetic boronic-acid inhibitor reveals a cyclic diester between the boronic acid and glycerol. The P2 4-aminomethylphenylalanine moiety of the inhibitor forms a salt-bridge with the non-conserved Asp(83) of NS2B, Ion-pairing between Asp(83) and the P2 residue of the substrate likely accounts for the enzyme’s high catalytic efficiency. The unusual dimer of the ZIKV protease:inhibitor complex seen in the crystal may provide a model for assemblies formed at high local concentrations of protease at the endoplasmatic reticulum membrane, the site of polyprotein processing.
Zika virus (ZIKV) is responsible for a major ongoing epidemic in the Americas and has been causally associated with fetal microcephaly. The development of a safe and effective ZIKV vaccine is therefore an urgent global health priority. Here we demonstrate that three different vaccine platforms protect against ZIKV challenge in rhesus monkeys. A purified inactivated virus vaccine induced ZIKV-specific neutralizing antibodies and completely protected monkeys against ZIKV strains from both Brazil and Puerto Rico. Purified immunoglobulin from vaccinated monkeys conferred passive protection in adoptive transfer studies. A plasmid DNA vaccine and a single-shot recombinant rhesus adenovirus serotype 52 vector expressing ZIKV prM-Env also elicited neutralizing antibodies and completely protected monkeys against ZIKV challenge. These data support the rapid clinical development of ZIKV vaccines for humans.
IBM today announced that as part of its Impact Grants Program, it will be donating its technology and expertise to help fight Zika virus. Working with Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), a research institution affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Health and a world leader on Zika research, the computer technology will help the scientists track and analyze patterns of data.
Zika, like Ebola, dengue, tuberculosis and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, is among the major public health problems that threaten us globally. To prevent greater tragedy will require collaboration across the usual geographic and institutional boundaries, as we saw with SARS and Ebola.
Currently there are no approved vaccines or specific therapies to prevent or treat Zika virus (ZIKV) infection. We interrogated a library of FDA-approved drugs for their ability to block infection of human HuH-7 cells by a newly isolated ZIKV strain (ZIKV MEX_I_7). More than 20 out of 774 tested compounds decreased ZIKV infection in our in vitro screening assay. Selected compounds were further validated for inhibition of ZIKV infection in human cervical, placental, and neural stem cell lines, as well as primary human amnion cells. Established anti-flaviviral drugs (e.g., bortezomib and mycophenolic acid) and others that had no previously known antiviral activity (e.g., daptomycin) were identified as inhibitors of ZIKV infection. Several drugs reduced ZIKV infection across multiple cell types. This study identifies drugs that could be tested in clinical studies of ZIKV infection and provides a resource of small molecules to study ZIKV pathogenesis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that Zika virus (ZIKV) causes congenital microcephaly. ZIKV now joins five other neuroteratogenic (NT) viruses in humans and ZIKV research is in its infancy. In addition, there is only one other NT human arbovirus (Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus), which is also poorly understood. But further insight into ZIKV can be found by evaluating arboviruses in domestic animals, of which there are at least seven NT viruses, three of which have been well studied. Here we review two key anatomical structures involved in modeling transplacental NT virus transmission: the placenta and the fetal blood–brain barrier. We then survey major research findings regarding transmission of NT viruses for guidance in establishing a mouse model of Zika disease that is crucial for a better understanding of ZIKV transmission and pathogenesis.
Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy has emerged as a global public health problem because of its ability to cause severe congenital disease. Here, we developed six mouse monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against ZIKV including four (ZV-48, ZV-54, ZV-64, and ZV-67) that were ZIKV specific and neutralized infection of African, Asian, and American strains to varying degrees. X-ray crystallographic and competition binding analyses of Fab fragments and scFvs defined three spatially distinct epitopes in DIII of the envelope protein corresponding to the lateral ridge (ZV-54 and ZV-67), C-C’ loop (ZV-48 and ZV-64), and ABDE sheet (ZV-2) regions. In vivo passive transfer studies revealed protective activity of DIII-lateral ridge specific neutralizing mAbs in a mouse model of ZIKV infection. Our results suggest that DIII is targeted by multiple type-specific antibodies with distinct neutralizing activity, which provides a path for developing prophylactic antibodies for use in pregnancy or designing epitope-specific vaccines against ZIKV.
Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy is linked to severe birth defects, but mother-to-fetus transmission routes are unknown. We infected different primary cell types from mid- and late-gestation placentas and explants from first-trimester chorionic villi with the prototype Ugandan and a recently isolated Nicaraguan ZIKV strain. ZIKV infects primary human placental cells and explants—cytotrophoblasts, endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and Hofbauer cells in chorionic villi and amniotic epithelial cells and trophoblast progenitors in amniochorionic membranes—that express Axl, Tyro3, and/or TIM1 viral entry cofactors. ZIKV produced NS3 and E proteins and generated higher viral titers in amniotic epithelial cells from mid-gestation compared to late-gestation placentas. Duramycin, a peptide that binds phosphatidylethanolamine in enveloped virions and precludes TIM1 binding, reduced ZIKV infection in placental cells and explants. Our results suggest that ZIKV spreads from basal and parietal decidua to chorionic villi and amniochorionic membranes and that targeting TIM1 could suppress infection at the uterine-placental interface.