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Specificity, cross-reactivity, and function of antibodies elicited by Zika virus infection

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Science  19 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6301, pp. 823-826
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8505

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Characterizing the Zika virus antibody response

Given the public health emergency that Zika virus poses, scientists are seeking to understand the Zika-specific immune response. Stettler et al. analyzed 119 monoclonal antibodies isolated from four donors that were infected with Zika virus during the present epidemic, including two individuals that had previously been infected with dengue virus, another member of the flavivirus family. Neutralizing antibodies primarily recognized the envelope protein domain III (EDIII) or quaternary epitopes on the intact virus, and an EDIII-targeted antibody protected mice against lethal infection. Some EDI/II-targeting antibodies cross-reacted with dengue virus in vitro and could enhance disease in dengue-infected mice. Whether dengue and Zika virus antibodies cross-react in humans remains to be tested.

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Abstract

Zika virus (ZIKV), a mosquito-borne flavivirus with homology to Dengue virus (DENV), has become a public health emergency. By characterizing memory lymphocytes from ZIKV-infected patients, we dissected ZIKV-specific and DENV–cross-reactive immune responses. Antibodies to nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) were largely ZIKV-specific and were used to develop a serological diagnostic tool. In contrast, antibodies against E protein domain I/II (EDI/II) were cross-reactive and, although poorly neutralizing, potently enhanced ZIKV and DENV infection in vitro and lethally enhanced DENV disease in mice. Memory T cells against NS1 or E proteins were poorly cross-reactive, even in donors preexposed to DENV. The most potent neutralizing antibodies were ZIKV-specific and targeted EDIII or quaternary epitopes on infectious virus. An EDIII-specific antibody protected mice from lethal ZIKV infection, illustrating the potential for antibody-based therapy.

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