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Zika virus proteins at an atomic scale: how does structural biology help us to understand and develop vaccines and drugs against Zika virus infection?

Ana Paula Valente and Adolfo Henrique Moraes

J Venom Anim Toxins incl Trop Dis, 2019, 25:e20190013
Received: 28 February 2019 | Accepted: 24 July 2019 | Published online: 29 August 2019


In Brazil and in other tropical areas Zika virus infection was directly associated with clinical complications as microcephaly in newborn children whose mothers were infected during pregnancy and the Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults. Recently, research has been focused on developing new vaccines and drug candidates against Zika virus infection since none of those are available. In order to contribute to vaccine and drug development efforts, it becomes important the understanding of the molecular basis of the Zika virus recognition, infection and blockade. To this purpose, it is essential the structural determination of the Zika virus proteins. The genome sequencing of the Zika virus identified ten proteins, being three structural (protein E, protein C and protein prM) and seven non-structural proteins (NS1, NS2A, NS2B, NS3, NS4A, NS4B and NS5). Together, these proteins are the main targets for drugs and antibody recognition. Here we examine new discoveries on high-resolution structural biology of Zika virus, observing the interactions and functions of its proteins identified via state-of-art structural methodologies as X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and cryogenic electronic microscopy. The aim of the present study is to contribute to the understanding of the structural basis of Zika virus infection at an atomic level and to point out similarities and differences to others flaviviruses.


Keywords: Zika virus proteins, Structural biology, Protein structure, Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Protein-antibody interaction, Protein-small compound interaction.

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