Zika virus (ZIKV), a mosquito-borne transplacentally transmissible flavivirus, is an enveloped virus with an ~10.8 kb plus-strand RNA genome that can cause neurological disease. To facilitate the identification of potential antivirals, we developed two reporter-expressing ZIKVs, each capable of expressing an enhanced green fluorescent protein or an improved luminescent NanoLuc luciferase. First, a full-length functional ZIKV cDNA clone was engineered as a bacterial artificial chromosome, with each reporter gene under the cap-independent translational control of a cardiovirus-derived internal ribosome entry site inserted downstream of the single open reading frame of the viral genome. Two reporter-expressing ZIKVs were then generated by transfection of ZIKV-susceptible BHK-21 cells with infectious RNAs derived by in vitro run-off transcription from the respective cDNAs. As compared to the parental virus, the two reporter-expressing ZIKVs grew to lower titers with slower growth kinetics and formed smaller foci; however, they displayed a genome-wide viral protein expression profile identical to that of the parental virus, except for two previously unrecognized larger forms of the C and NS1 proteins. We then used the NanoLuc-expressing ZIKV to assess the in vitro antiviral activity of three inhibitors (T-705, NITD-008, and ribavirin). Altogether, our reporter-expressing ZIKVs represent an excellent molecular tool for the discovery of novel antivirals.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited