A new study by University of Michigan (U-M) and Purdue University researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) has revealed the molecular structure of a protein produced by the Zika virus that is thought to be involved in the virus's reproduction and its interaction with a host's immune system.
The results provide scientists around the globe with new information about the NS1 protein's role in Zika virus infections, and expands scientists' understanding of the flavivirus family, which also includes dengue, West Nile and yellow fever.
“Having the structure of the full-length Zika NS1 provides new information that could help guide the design of a potential vaccine or antiviral drugs,” said senior author Janet Smith, director of the Center for Structural Biology (CSB) at the U-M Life Sciences Institute (LSI), where her lab is located, and professor of biological chemistry at the U-M Medical School.
“Researchers are still working to understand precisely how Zika and other flaviviruses interact with an infected person’s immune system,” she said. “Having these atomic-level details can help scientists to ask better questions and to design more thoughtful experiments as we continue to learn new information.”
The findings were published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
Read: “This giant X-ray machine helped decode one of the Zika virus' secrets,” Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2016.
Hear: “New Zika Research: Key Virus Protein Structure Solved,” “The 21st Show” report, including interviews with Janet Smith, and Argonne Associate Laboratory Director and APS Director Stephen Streiffer.
Watch: “Ground breaking Zika research performed in suburb,” WGN-TV report, including interviews with Janet Smith and Robert Fischetti, Life Sciences Advisor to the APS Director and Group Leader, GM/CA-XSD.
See: The DOE's energy.gov version, "Using X-Rays to Zap the Zika Virus"