Zika virus (ZIKV; family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus) is a rapidly expanding global pathogen that has been associated with severe clinical manifestations, including devastating neurological disease in infants. There are currently no molecular clones of a New World ZIKV available that lack significant attenuation, hindering progress toward understanding determinants of transmission and pathogenesis. Here we report the development and characterization of a novel ZIKV reverse genetics system based on a 2015 isolate from Puerto Rico (PRVABC59). We generated a two-plasmid infectious clone system from which infectious virus was rescued that replicates in human and mosquito cells with growth kinetics representative of wild-type ZIKV. Infectious clone-derived virus initiated infection and transmission rates in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes comparable to those of the primary isolate and displayed similar pathogenesis in AG129 mice. This infectious clone system provides a valuable resource to the research community to explore ZIKV molecular biology, vaccine development, antiviral development, diagnostics, vector competence, and disease pathogenesis.IMPORTANCE: ZIKV is a rapidly spreading mosquito-borne pathogen that has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults and congenital microcephaly in developing fetuses and infants. ZIKV can also be sexually transmitted. The viral molecular determinants of any of these phenotypes are not well understood. There is no reverse genetics system available for the current epidemic virus that will allow researchers to study ZIKV immunity, develop novel vaccines, or develop antiviral drugs. Here we provide a novel infectious clone system generated from a recent ZIKV isolated from a patient infected in Puerto Rico. This infectious clone produces virus with in vitro and in vivo characteristics similar to those of the primary isolate, providing a critical tool to study ZIKV infection and disease.
The Stenglein group had a minimal role in this nice paper from the Ebel lab and other groups at CSU and the CDC.