Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that replicates in both vertebrate and insect cells, whereas insect-specific flaviviruses (ISF) replicate only in insect cells. We sought to convert ZIKV, from a dual-tropic flavivirus, into an insect-specific virus for the eventual development of a safe ZIKV vaccine. Reverse genetics was used to introduce specific mutations into the furin cleavage motif within the ZIKV pre-membrane protein (prM). Mutant clones were selected, which replicated well in C6/36 insect cells but exhibited reduced replication in non-human primate (Vero) cells. Further characterization of the furin cleavage site mutants indicated they replicated poorly in both human (HeLa, U251), and baby hamster kidney (BHK-21) cells. One clone with the induced mutation in the prM protein and at positions 291and 452 within the NS3 protein was totally and stably replication-defective in vertebrate cells (VSRD-ZIKV). Preliminary studies in ZIKV sensitive, immunodeficient mice demonstrated that VSRD-ZIKV-infected mice survived and were virus-negative. Our study indicates that a reverse genetic approach targeting the furin cleavage site in prM can be used to select an insect-specific ZIKV with the potential utility as a vaccine strain.
- Vertebrate-specific replication-defective
- Viral tropism
- Zika virus
- prM cleavage
ASJC Scopus subject areas