A broadly protective antibody that targets the flavivirus NS1 protein

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Science  08 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6525, pp. 190-194
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb9425

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Two antibodies against flaviviruses

Flaviviruses are a group of RNA viruses that include the human pathogens dengue virus, Zika virus, and West Nile virus. The envelope protein (E) on the virus surface has been the target of vaccine development, but problems have arisen with antibodies against E, leading to enhanced infection. Now, Modhiran et al. and Biering et al. describe two different antibodies that bind to the flavivirus NS1 protein and prevent it from disrupting epithelial cells, which is associated with severe disease. Both antibodies cross-react with multiple flavivirus NS1 proteins. The antibodies reduce viremia and increase survival in mouse models of flavivirus disease. Both papers include structures of NS1 bound to an antibody, which give insight into the protective mechanism.

Science, this issue p. 190, p. 194


There are no approved flaviviral therapies and the development of vaccines against flaviruses has the potential of being undermined by antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). The flavivirus nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) is a promising vaccine antigen with low ADE risk but has yet to be explored as a broad-spectrum therapeutic antibody target. Here, we provide the structural basis of NS1 antibody cross-reactivity through cocrystallization of the antibody 1G5.3 with NS1 proteins from dengue and Zika viruses. The 1G5.3 antibody blocks multi-flavivirus NS1-mediated cell permeability in disease-relevant cell lines, and therapeutic application of 1G5.3 reduces viremia and improves survival in dengue, Zika, and West Nile virus murine models. Finally, we demonstrate that 1G5.3 protection is independent of effector function, identifying the 1G5.3 epitope as a key site for broad-spectrum antiviral development.

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