Zika virus and autoimmunity: From microcephaly to Guillain-Barré syndrome, and beyond

Autoimmun Rev. 2016 Aug;15(8):801-8. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2016.03.020. Epub 2016 Mar 25.


Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy may be linked to fetal neurological complications that include brain damage and microcephaly. How the viral infection relates to fetal brain malformations is unknown. This study analyzes ZIKV polyprotein for peptide sharing with human proteins that, when altered, associate with microcephaly and brain calcifications. Results highlight a vast viral versus human peptide commonality that, in particular, involves centriolar and centrosomal components canonically cataloged as microcephaly proteins, i.e., C2CD3, CASC5, CP131, GCP4, KIF2A, STIL, and TBG. Likewise, a search for ZIKV peptide occurrences in human proteins linked to Guillain-Barré-like syndromes also show a high, unexpected level of peptide sharing. Of note, further analyses using the Immune Epitope DataBase (IEDB) resource show that many of the shared peptides are endowed with immunological potential. The data indicate that immune reactions following ZIKV infection might be a considerable source of crossreactions with brain-specific proteins and might contribute to the ZIKV-associated neuropathologic sequelae.

Keywords: Aicardi-Goutieres syndromes; Autoimmunity; Brain calcification; Centriolar and centrosomal proteins; Crossreactivity; Guillain-Barré-like syndromes; Microcephaly; Ocular anomalies; Peptide sharing; Zika virus infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmunity
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cross Reactions
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / pathology
  • Fetal Diseases / virology*
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / pathology
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / virology*
  • Humans
  • Microcephaly / pathology
  • Microcephaly / virology*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / chemistry
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Peptide Mapping
  • Polyproteins / chemistry
  • Polyproteins / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Zika Virus / physiology*
  • Zika Virus Infection / pathology*
  • Zika Virus Infection / virology*


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Polyproteins
  • Viral Proteins