Introducing a Beneficial Mutation to Flaviviruses

By Min Seo Jeong

Diseases caused by flaviviruses are a source of global health concern due to the lack of treatments currently available. At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a group of researchers led by Leslie Goo tested the effects of mutations on a flavivirus protein. The flavivirus protein used in the experiments was envelope protein, also known as E protein.

This viral protein can undergo a process called “viral breathing”, during which the shape of the protein changes to expose and hide specific regions of the protein. The team also used a mutation, T198F, which is involved in the part of the protein that regulates the viral breathing process.

The research team introduced this T198F mutation to different flaviviruses, including West Nile, dengue, and Zika. The results showed that in West Nile and dengue, the mutation did expose certain areas of the protein and made them more vulnerable to antibodies. The same results were not seen in Zika. This effect on the West Nile virus was displayed in mice by a decrease in the rate of infections and the severity of diseases.

By learning more about the impact of flaviviruses and viral breathing on immune system antibodies, Goo hopes to see the development of new vaccines and drugs to further advance treatment for these viruses.

 

PLOS. "Single mutation may impact infectivity of West Nile and similar viruses: Mutation in viral envelope protein may expose relatively hidden protein region to antibodies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2017. .