Functional RNA during Zika virus infection

Virus Res. 2018 Aug 2;254:41-53. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2017.08.015. Epub 2017 Aug 31.


Zika virus (ZIKV; family Flaviviridae; genus Flavivirus) is a pathogenic mosquito-borne RNA virus that currently threatens human health in the Americas, large parts of Asia and occasionally elsewhere in the world. ZIKV infection is often asymptomatic but can cause severe symptoms including congenital microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. The positive single-stranded RNA genome of the mosquito-borne ZIKV requires effective replication in two evolutionary distinct hosts - mosquitoes and primates. In addition to some of the viral proteins, the ZIKV genomic RNA and functional RNAs produced thereof aid in the establishment of productive infection and the evasion of host cell antiviral responses. ZIKV has evolved to contain a nucleotide composition and RNA modifications, such as methylation and the formation of G-quadruplexes that allow effective replication in both hosts. Furthermore, a number of host factors interact with the viral genome to modulate RNA replication. Importantly, the ZIKV genome produces non-coding subgenomic flavivirus RNA (sfRNA) due to stalling of host 5'- 3' ribonucleases on viral RNA structures in the 3' untranslated region (UTR). This sfRNA (sfRNA) exerts important proviral functions such as antagonizing the innate interferon response and RNA interference. Here, we discuss the ZIKV genomic RNA and functional RNAs thereof to assess their significance during ZIKV infection. Understanding the details of the ZIKV infection cycle will aid in the development of effective antiviral strategies and safe vaccines.

Keywords: 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions; Codon usage bias; Dinucleotides; G-quadruplex; Nucleotide composition; RNA methylation; Subgenomic flavivirus RNA; Virus-host interactions; Zika virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • RNA Interference / physiology
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication
  • Zika Virus / genetics
  • Zika Virus / physiology*
  • Zika Virus Infection / virology*


  • RNA, Untranslated
  • RNA, Viral