The ability of viruses to evade the host antiviral immune system determines their level of replication fitness, species specificity, and pathogenic potential. Flaviviruses rely on the subversion of innate immune barriers including the type I and type III IFN antiviral systems. Zika virus infection induces the degradation of STAT2, an essential component of the IFN stimulated gene transcription factor, ISGF3. The mechanisms that lead to STAT2 degradation by Zika virus are poorly understood, but it is known to be mediated by the viral NS5 protein that binds to STAT2 and targets it for proteasome-mediated destruction. To better understand how NS5 engages and degrades STAT2, functional analysis of the protein interactions that lead to Zika virus and NS5-dependent STAT2 proteolysis were investigated. Data implicate the STAT2 coiled-coil domain as necessary and sufficient for NS5 interaction and proteasome degradation after Zika virus infection. Molecular dissection reveals that the first two α-helices of the STAT2 coiled-coil contain a specific targeting region for IFN antagonism. These functional interactions provide a more complete understanding of the essential protein-protein interactions needed for Zika virus evasion of the host antiviral response, and identifies new targets for antiviral therapeutic approaches.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.10.01.462781