From the UCR News Article by Iqbal Pitalwala:
"A research team led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside, has outlined how the Zika virus, which constituted an epidemic threat in 2016, suppresses the immune system of its host.
The Zika virus, or ZIKV, spreads through mosquito bites and sexual intercourse. Currently, no approved vaccine or antivirals against ZIKV exist.
“Suppressing host immunity is a common strategy employed by viruses to achieve successful infection,” said Jikui Song, a professor of biochemistry at UCR, who co-led the study. “Our work provides valuable structural and functional information on the interaction between ZIKV and its host and offers a framework for the development of vaccines and antivirals.”
The study appears in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
Song explained the steps involved in suppressing the host immune response. ZIKV encounters the first line of defense by way of a type I interferon, or IFN, response in the host. Secreted by infected cells, IFNs are natural substances that help the host’s immune system fight infection. Once ZIKV infects the cell, it presents a nonstructural protein, NS5, which interacts with a key player in the type I IFN pathway: the STAT2 protein. The interaction between ZIKV NS5 and STAT2 degrades STAT2, which inhibits the type I IFN response."
The remainder of the article can be found at the UCR News site here.