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Concept: Flaviviruses


Although Zika virus (ZIKV) infection in pregnant women can cause placental damage, intrauterine growth restriction, microcephaly, and fetal demise, these disease manifestations only became apparent in the context of a large epidemic in the Americas. We hypothesized that ZIKV is not unique among arboviruses in its ability to cause congenital infection. To evaluate this, we tested the capacity of four emerging arboviruses [West Nile virus (WNV), Powassan virus (POWV), chikungunya virus (CHIKV), and Mayaro virus (MAYV)] from related (flavivirus) and unrelated (alphavirus) genera to infect the placenta and fetus in immunocompetent, wild-type mice. Although all four viruses caused placental infection, only infection with the neurotropic flaviviruses (WNV and POWV) resulted in fetal demise. WNV and POWV also replicated efficiently in second-trimester human maternal (decidua) and fetal (chorionic villi and fetal membrane) explants, whereas CHIKV and MAYV replicated less efficiently. In mice, RNA in situ hybridization and histopathological analysis revealed that WNV infected the placenta and fetal central nervous system, causing injury to the developing brain. In comparison, CHIKV and MAYV did not cause substantive placental or fetal damage despite evidence of vertical transmission. On the basis of the susceptibility of human maternal and fetal tissue explants and pathogenesis experiments in immunocompetent mice, other emerging neurotropic flaviviruses may share with ZIKV the capacity for transplacental transmission, as well as subsequent infection and injury to the developing fetus.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Fetus, Virus, Infection, Placenta, Flavivirus, Flaviviruses, DEET


The mosquito-borne flaviviruses include important human pathogens such as dengue, Zika, West Nile, and yellow fever viruses, which pose a serious threat for global health. Recent genetic screens identified endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-membrane multiprotein complexes, including the oligosaccharyltransferase (OST) complex, as critical flavivirus host factors. Here, we show that a chemical modulator of the OST complex termed NGI-1 has promising antiviral activity against flavivirus infections. We demonstrate that NGI-1 blocks viral RNA replication and that antiviral activity does not depend on inhibition of the N-glycosylation function of the OST. Viral mutants adapted to replicate in cells deficient of the OST complex showed resistance to NGI-1 treatment, reinforcing the on-target activity of NGI-1. Lastly, we show that NGI-1 also has strong antiviral activity in primary and disease-relevant cell types. This study provides an example for advancing from the identification of genetic determinants of infection to a host-directed antiviral compound with broad activity against flaviviruses.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Zika virus (ZIKV) is spreading rapidly into regions around the world where other flaviviruses, such as dengue (DENV) and West Nile virus (WNV) are endemic. Antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) has been implicated in more severe forms of flavivirus disease, but whether this also applies to ZIKV infection is unclear. Using convalescent plasma from DENV and WNV infected individuals, we found substantial enhancement of ZIKV infection in vitro that was mediated through IgG engagement of Fcγ receptors. Administration of DENV or WNV convalescent plasma into ZIKV-susceptible mice resulted in increased morbidity and mortality, including fever, viremia, and viral loads in spinal cord and testes. ADE may explain the severe disease manifestations associated with recent ZIKV outbreaks and highlights the need to exert great caution when designing flavivirus vaccines.

Concepts: Immune system, Infection, Viruses, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


The genus Pestivirus of the family Flaviviridae consists of four recognized species: Bovine viral diarrhoea virus 1 (BVDV-1), Bovine viral diarrhoea virus 2 (BVDV-2), Classical swine fever virus (CSFV) and Border disease virus (BDV). Recently, atypical pestiviruses (‘HoBi’-like pestiviruses) were identified in batches of contaminated foetal calf serum and in naturally infected cattle with and without clinical symptoms. Here, we describe the first report of a mucosal disease-like clinical presentation (MD) associated with a ‘HoBi’-like pestivirus occurring in a cattle herd. The outbreak was investigated using immunohistochemistry, antibody detection, viral isolation and RT-PCR. The sequence and phylogenetic analysis of 5'NCR, N(pro) and E2 regions of the RT-PCR positive samples showed that four different ‘HoBi’-like strains were circulating in the herd. The main clinical signs and lesions were observed in the respiratory and digestive systems, but skin lesions and corneal opacity were also observed. MD characteristic lesions and a pestivirus with cytopathic biotype were detected in one calf. The present study is the first report of a MD like presentation associated with natural infection with ‘HoBi’-like pestivirus. This report describes the clinical signs and provides a pathologic framework of an outbreak associated with at least two different ‘HoBi’-like strains. Based on these observations, it appears that these atypical pestiviruses are most likely underdiagnosed in Brazilian cattle.

Concepts: Infection, Symptom, Fever, Animal virology, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses, Classical swine fever, Pestivirus


Understanding the vector and nonhuman vertebrate species contributing to Zika virus (ZIKAV) transmission is critical to understanding the ecology of this emerging arbovirus and its potential to establish in new geographic areas. This minireview summarizes what is known regarding the association of bats with flaviviruses (Flaviviridae: Flavivirus) with a particular emphasis on the potential role of bats in the sylvatic transmission of ZIKAV. Key research directions that remain to be addressed are also discussed.

Concepts: Evolution, Yellow fever, Viruses, Vertebrate, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses, Zika virus


Zika virus (ZIKV) and dengue virus (DENV) are antigenically related flaviviruses that share cross-reactivity in antibody and T cell responses, and co-circulate in increasing numbers of countries. Whether pre-existing DENV immunity can cross-protect or enhance ZIKV infection during sequential infection of the same host is unknown. Here, we show that DENV-immune Ifnar1 (-/-) or wild-type C57BL/6 mice infected with ZIKV have cross-reactive immunity to subsequent ZIKV infection and pathogenesis. Adoptive transfer and cell depletion studies demonstrate that DENV-immune CD8(+) T cells predominantly mediate cross-protective responses to ZIKV. In contrast, passive transfer studies suggest that DENV-immune serum does not protect against ZIKV infection. Thus, CD8(+) T cell immunity generated during primary DENV infection can confer protection against secondary ZIKV infection in mice. Further optimization of current DENV vaccines for T cell responses might confer cross-protection and prevent antibody-mediated enhancement of ZIKV infection.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Virus, Natural killer cell, Fever, Flaviviruses


Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging mosquito-borne flavivirus that is causally linked to severe neonatal birth defects, including microcephaly, and is associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. Dendritic cells (DCs) are an important cell type during infection by multiple mosquito-borne flaviviruses, including dengue virus, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, and yellow fever virus. Despite this, the interplay between ZIKV and DCs remains poorly defined. Here, we found human DCs supported productive infection by a contemporary Puerto Rican isolate with considerable variability in viral replication, but not viral binding, between DCs from different donors. Historic isolates from Africa and Asia also infected DCs with distinct viral replication kinetics between strains. African lineage viruses displayed more rapid replication kinetics and infection magnitude as compared to Asian lineage viruses, and uniquely induced cell death. Infection of DCs with both contemporary and historic ZIKV isolates led to minimal up-regulation of T cell co-stimulatory and MHC molecules, along with limited secretion of inflammatory cytokines. Inhibition of type I interferon (IFN) protein translation was observed during ZIKV infection, despite strong induction at the RNA transcript level and up-regulation of other host antiviral proteins. Treatment of human DCs with RIG-I agonist potently restricted ZIKV replication, while type I IFN had only modest effects. Mechanistically, we found all strains of ZIKV antagonized type I IFN-mediated phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT2. Combined, our findings show that ZIKV subverts DC immunogenicity during infection, in part through evasion of type I IFN responses, but that the RLR signaling pathway is still capable of inducing an antiviral state, and therefore may serve as an antiviral therapeutic target.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Virus, Ribavirin, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Molecular determinants and mechanisms of arthropod-borne flavivirus transmission to the vertebrate host are poorly understood. In this study, we show for the first time that a cell line from medically important arthropods, such as ticks, secretes extracellular vesicles (EVs) including exosomes that mediate transmission of flavivirus RNA and proteins to the human cells. Our study shows that tick-borne Langat virus (LGTV), a model pathogen closely related to tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), profusely uses arthropod exosomes for transmission of viral RNA and proteins to the human- skin keratinocytes and blood endothelial cells. Cryo-electron microscopy showed the presence of purified arthropod/neuronal exosomes with the size range of 30 to 200 nm in diameter. Both positive and negative strands of LGTV RNA and viral envelope-protein were detected inside exosomes derived from arthropod, murine and human cells. Detection of Nonstructural 1 (NS1) protein in arthropod and neuronal exosomes further suggested that exosomes contain viral proteins. Viral RNA and proteins in exosomes derived from tick and mammalian cells were secured, highly infectious and replicative in all tested evaluations. Treatment with GW4869, a selective inhibitor that blocks exosome release affected LGTV loads in both arthropod and mammalian cell-derived exosomes. Transwell-migration assays showed that exosomes derived from infected-brain-microvascular endothelial cells (that constitute the blood-brain barrier) facilitated LGTV RNA and protein transmission, crossing of the barriers and infection of neuronal cells. Neuronal infection showed abundant loads of both tick-borne LGTV and mosquito-borne West Nile virus RNA in exosomes. Our data also suggest that exosome-mediated LGTV viral transmission is clathrin-dependent. Collectively, our results suggest that flaviviruses uses arthropod-derived exosomes as a novel means for viral RNA and protein transmission from the vector, and the vertebrate exosomes for dissemination within the host that may subsequently allow neuroinvasion and neuropathogenesis.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Virus, RNA, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviruses


Mitigating global infectious disease requires diagnostic tools that are sensitive, specific, and rapidly field deployable. In this study, we demonstrate that the Cas13-based SHERLOCK (specific high-sensitivity enzymatic reporter unlocking) platform can detect Zika virus (ZIKV) and dengue virus (DENV) in patient samples at concentrations as low as 1 copy per microliter. We developed HUDSON (heating unextracted diagnostic samples to obliterate nucleases), a protocol that pairs with SHERLOCK for viral detection directly from bodily fluids, enabling instrument-free DENV detection directly from patient samples in <2 hours. We further demonstrate that SHERLOCK can distinguish the four DENV serotypes, as well as region-specific strains of ZIKV from the 2015-2016 pandemic. Finally, we report the rapid (<1 week) design and testing of instrument-free assays to detect clinically relevant viral single-nucleotide polymorphisms.

Concepts: DNA, Infectious disease, Medical terms, Malaria, Infection, Influenza, Fever, Flaviviruses


The association of Zika virus (ZIKV) infections with microcephaly and neurological diseases has highlighted an emerging public health concern. Here, we report the crystal structure of the full-length ZIKV nonstructural protein 1 (NS1), a major host-interaction molecule that functions in flaviviral replication, pathogenesis, and immune evasion. Of note, a long intertwined loop is observed in the wing domain of ZIKV NS1, and forms a hydrophobic “spike”, which can contribute to cellular membrane association. For different flaviviruses, the amino acid sequences of the “spike” are variable but their common characteristic is either hydrophobic or positively charged, which is a beneficial feature for membrane binding. Comparative studies with West Nile and Dengue virus NS1 structures reveal conserved features, but diversified electrostatic characteristics on both inner and outer faces. Our results suggest different mechanisms of flavivirus pathogenesis and should be considered during the development of diagnostic tools.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Electric charge, Amino acid, Viruses, West Nile virus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses