The recent Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic in the Americas has revealed rare but serious manifestations of infection. ZIKV has emerged in regions endemic for dengue virus (DENV), a closely related mosquito-borne flavivirus. Cross-reactive antibodies confound studies of ZIKV epidemiology and pathogenesis. The immune responses to ZIKV may be different in people, depending on their DENV immune status. Here, we focus on the human B cell and antibody response to ZIKV as a primary flavivirus infection to define the properties of neutralizing and protective antibodies generated in the absence of preexisting immunity to DENV. The plasma antibody and memory B cell response is highly ZIKV type-specific, and ZIKV-neutralizing antibodies mainly target quaternary structure epitopes on the viral envelope. To map viral epitopes targeted by protective antibodies, we isolated 2 type-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from a ZIKV case. Both mAbs were strongly neutralizing in vitro and protective in vivo. The mAbs recognize distinct epitopes centered on domains I and II of the envelope protein. We also demonstrate that the epitopes of these mAbs define antigenic regions commonly targeted by plasma antibodies in individuals from endemic and nonendemic regions who have recovered from ZIKV infections.
Keywords: Adaptive immunity; B cells; Immunoglobulins; Immunology; Virology.