Scientists have elucidated the structure of a key protein that helps the Zika virus to infect cells.
George Gao and Yi Shi of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and their colleagues crystallized the NS1 protein (pictured) from the Zika virus involved in the 2015 outbreak in Brazil. They report that the protein has structural similarities to those found in closely related viruses such as the dengue and West Nile viruses. But NS1 has some key differences from these related proteins — most notably, a different pattern of electric-charge distribution in a region that interacts with host cells.
The team suggests that the structural differences could explain the diversity of symptoms caused by Zika and related viruses in humans.
Nature Struct. Mol. Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nsmb.3213 (2016)