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The Unique Cofactor Region of Zika Virus NS2B–NS3 Protease Facilitates Cleavage of Key Host Proteins

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posted on 06.08.2018, 00:00 by Maureen E. Hill, Anil Kumar, James A. Wells, Tom C. Hobman, Olivier Julien, Jeanne A. Hardy
Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne pathogen capable of severely damaging developing fetuses as well as causing neurological abnormalities in adults. The molecular details of how Zika virus causes pathologies that are unique among the flavivirus family remain poorly understood and have contributed to the lack of Zika antiviral therapies. To elucidate how Zika virus protease (ZVP) affects host cellular pathways and consequent pathologies, we used unbiased N-terminomics to identify 31 human proteins cleaved by the NS2B–NS3 protease. In particular, autophagy-related protein 16-1 (ATG16L1) and eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4 gamma 1 (eIF4G1) are dramatically depleted during Zika virus infection. ATG16L1 and eIF4G1 mediate type-II interferon production and host-cell translation, respectively, likely aiding immune system evasion and driving the Zika life cycle. Intriguingly, the NS2B cofactor region from Zika virus protease is essential for recognition of host cell substrates. Replacing the NS2B region in another flavivirus protease enabled recognition of novel Zika-specific substrates by hybrid proteases, suggesting that the cofactor is the principal determinant in ZVP substrate selection.

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