Recombinant Zika virus subunits are immunogenic and efficacious in mice

Albert To, Liana O. Medina, Kenji O. Mfuh, Michael M. Lieberman, Teri Ann S. Wong, Madhuri Namekar, Eileen Nakano, Chih Yun Lai, Mukesh Kumar, Vivek R. Nerurkar, Axel T. Lehrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Following the 2015 Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreaks in the South Pacific, Caribbean, and Americas, ZIKV has emerged as a serious threat due to its association with infantile microcephaly and other neurologic disorders. Despite an international effort to develop a safe and effective vaccine to combat congenital Zika syndrome and ZIKV infection, only DNA and mRNA vaccines encoding the precursor membrane (prM) and envelope (E) proteins, an inactivated-ZIKV vaccine, and a measles virusbased ZIKV vaccine are currently in phase I or II (prM/E DNA) clinical trials. A ZIKV vaccine based on a nonreplicating, recombinant subunit platform offers a higher safety profile than other ZIKV vaccine candidates but is still highly immunogenic, inducing high virus-neutralizing antibody titers. Here, we describe the production and purification of Drosophila melanogaster S2 insect cell-derived, soluble ZIKV E protein and evaluate its immunogenicity and efficacy in three different mouse strains. As expected, significant virus-specific antibody titers were observed when using formulations containing clinically relevant adjuvants. Immunized mice challenged with live virus demonstrate inhibition of virus replication. Importantly, plaque reduction neutralization tests (PRNTs) indicate the high-titer production of neutralizing antibodies, a correlate of protection in the defense against ZIKV infection. ZIKV challenge of immunocompetent mice led to full protection against viremia with two doses of adjuvanted vaccine candidates. These data demonstrate a proof of concept and establish recombinant subunit immunogens as an effective vaccine candidate against ZIKV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00576-17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Recombinant
  • Subunit
  • Vaccine
  • Zika virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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