08 July 2016 - PRESS RELEASE

Three dimensional structure of Zika virus protease clarified

DZIF scientists from Lübeck have succeeded in uncovering the three dimensional structure of a key enzyme in the Zika virus. With this, they have laid the basis for developing antiviral agents. The results are currently published in Science.


Three dimensional structure of Zika virus protease© Universität Lübeck/Hilgenfeld

The 2015 Zika virus outbreak in Latin America has affected over a million people up to now. Thousands of cases of microcephaly have been registered. Neither a vaccine nor antiviral drugs are currently available, but are urgently needed. The DZIF reacted to this emergency by funding research at the University of Lübeck, amongst other things.

Prof Rolf Hilgenfeld, Director of the Institute of Biochemistry at the University of Lübeck and his research team have now taken an important step towards developing antiviral drugs: the researchers have uncovered the three dimensional structure of Zika virus protease by means of x-ray structure analysis of its crystals. The protease is a key enzyme: the virus needs it to replicate essential proteins and envelope components of new virus particles.

Hilgenfeld and his team used an inhibitor developed by Prof Christian Klein, DZIF scientist at the University of Heidelberg, and his team. The atomic structure of Zika virus protease presents options for designing inhibitors with improved specificity for the enzyme.

see full University Lübeck press release


Lei, J.; Hansen, G.; Nitsche, C.; Klein, C. D.; Zhang, L.; Hilgenfeld, R.: Crystal structure of Zika virus NS2B-NS3-protease in complex with a boronate inhibitor. Science 7. Juli 2016.


Prof Rolf Hilgenfeld
DZIF-research field "Emerging Infections"
University of Lübeck
T +49 451 3101 3101

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