Zika virus (ZIKV) targets neural progenitor cells in the brain, attenuates cell proliferation, and leads to cell death. Here, we describe a role for the ZIKV protease NS2B-NS3 heterodimer in mediating neurotoxicity through cleavage of a host protein required for neurogenesis. Similar to ZIKV infection, NS2B-NS3 expression led to cytokinesis defects and cell death in a protease activity-dependent fashion. Among binding partners, NS2B-NS3 cleaved Septin-2, a cytoskeletal factor involved in cytokinesis. Cleavage of Septin-2 occurred at residue 306 and forced expression of a non-cleavable Septin-2 restored cytokinesis, suggesting a direct mechanism of ZIKV-induced neural toxicity. Video Abstract: Mechanisms by which Zika virus leads to microcephaly are poorly understood. Here, Li et al. demonstrate the Zika protease, required for viral replication, associates with host proteins and cleaves Septin-2, a protein required for neural cell division.
- activated caspase
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