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A single nonsynonymous mutation on gene encoding E protein of Zika virus leads to increased neurovirulence in vivo

By Zhihua Liu, Yawei Zhang, Mengli Cheng, Ningning Ge, Jiayi Shu, Zhiheng Xu, Yigang Tong, Chengfeng Qin, Xia Jin

Posted 20 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.20.912535

Zika virus can infect a wide range of tissues including the developmental brain of human fetuses, causing from mild to severe clinical diseases. Whether its genetic characteristics impacts on viral pathogenesis is incompletely understood. We have obtained viral variants through serially passage of a clinical Zika virus isolate (SW01) in neonatal mice in vivo and found some of which exhibited markedly increased virulence and neurotropism. By deep sequencing analysis, the more pathogenic viral variants were found to contain four dominant nonsynonymous nucleotide mutations on genes encoding E and NS2A proteins. Further investigation using molecularly cloned viruses revealed that a single 67D (Aspatic acid) to N (Asparagine) substitution on E protein is sufficient to confer the increased virulence and neurotropism. These findings provide new insight into Zika virus pathogenesis and suggest novel targets for the development of therapeutics.

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