High Flavivirus Structural Plasticity Demonstrated by a Non-Spherical Morphological Variant

Nat Commun. 2020 Jun 19;11(1):3112. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16925-y.


Previous flavivirus (dengue and Zika viruses) studies showed largely spherical particles either with smooth or bumpy surfaces. Here, we demonstrate flavivirus particles have high structural plasticity by the induction of a non-spherical morphology at elevated temperatures: the club-shaped particle (clubSP), which contains a cylindrical tail and a disc-like head. Complex formation of DENV and ZIKV with Fab C10 stabilize the viruses allowing cryoEM structural determination to ~10 Å resolution. The caterpillar-shaped (catSP) Fab C10:ZIKV complex shows Fabs locking the E protein raft structure containing three E dimers. However, compared to the original spherical structure, the rafts have rotated relative to each other. The helical tail structure of Fab C10:DENV3 clubSP showed although the Fab locked an E protein dimer, the dimers have shifted laterally. Morphological diversity, including clubSP and the previously identified bumpy and smooth-surfaced spherical particles, may help flavivirus survival and immune evasion.