The emergence of Zika virus (ZIKV) as a major public health threat has focused research on understanding virus biology and developing a suite of strategies for disease intervention. Recent advances in cryoelectron microscopy have accelerated structure-function studies of flaviviruses and of ZIKV in particular. Structures of the mature and immature ZIKV have demonstrated its similarity with other known flaviviruses such as dengue and West Nile viruses. However, ZIKV's unique pathobiology demands an explanation of how its structure, although similar to its flavivirus relatives, is sufficiently unique to address questions of receptor specificity, transmission, and antigenicity. Progress in defining the immunodominant epitopes and how neutralizing antibodies bind to them will provide great insight as vaccines progress through clinical trials. Identification of host receptors will substantially illuminate the interesting ZIKV tropism and provide insights into pathogenesis. Although the answers to all of these questions are not yet available, rapid progress in combining structural biology with other techniques is revealing the similarities and the differences in virion structure and function between ZIKV and related flaviviruses.
Keywords: Zika virus; cryo-EM; maturation; neutralizing antibodies; receptors.
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