Background: Zika virus (ZIKV), an arbovirus capable of causing neurological abnormalities, is a recognised human pathogen, for which a vaccine is required. As ZIKV antibodies can mediate antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of dengue virus (DENV) infection, a ZIKV vaccine must not only protect against ZIKV but must also not sensitise vaccinees to severe dengue. Methods: The N-terminal 80% of ZIKV envelope protein (80E) was expressed in Pichia pastoris and its capacity to self-assemble into particulate structures evaluated using dynamic light scattering and electron microscopy. Antigenic integrity of the 80E protein was evaluated using ZIKV-specific monoclonal antibodies. Its immunogenicity and protective efficacy were assessed in BALB/c and C57BL/6 Stat2−/− mice, respectively. Its capacity to enhance DENV and ZIKV infection was assessed in AG129 and C57BL/6 Stat2−/− mice, respectively. Findings: ZIKV-80E protein self-assembled into discrete nanoparticles (NPs), which preserved the antigenic integrity of neutralising epitopes on E domain III (EDIII) and elicited potent ZIKV-neutralising antibodies predominantly against this domain in BALB/c mice. These antibodies conferred statistically significant protection in vivo (p = 0.01, Mantel–Cox test), and did not exacerbate sub-lethal DENV-2 or ZIKV challenges in vivo. Interpretation: Yeast-expressed ZIKV-80E, which forms highly immunogenic EDIII-displaying NPs, elicits ZIKV EDIII-specific antibodies capable of offering significant protection in vivo, without the potential risk of ADE upon subsequent DENV-2 or ZIKV infection. This offers a promising vaccine candidate for further development. Funding: This study was supported partly by ICGEB, India, and by NIAID, USA.
- Antibody-dependent enhancement
- C57BL/6 Stat2
- Pichia pastoris;Dengue virus
- Zika virus vaccine