Rescue of Recombinant Zika Virus from a Bacterial Artificial Chromosome CDNA Clone

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


The association of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection with neurological complications during the recent worldwide outbreak and the lack of approved vaccines and/or antivirals have underscored the urgent need to develop ZIKV reverse genetic systems to facilitate the study of ZIKV biology and the development of therapeutic and/or prophylactic approaches. However, like with other flaviviruses, the generation of ZIKV full-length infectious cDNA clones has been hampered due to the toxicity of viral sequences during its amplification in bacteria. To overcome this problem, we have developed a nontraditional approach based on the use of bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs). Using this approach, the full-length cDNA copy of the ZIKV strain Rio Grande do Norte Natal (ZIKV-RGN) is generated from four synthetic DNA fragments and assembled into the single-copy pBeloBAC11 plasmid under the control of the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) immediate-early promoter. The assembled BAC cDNA clone is stable during propagation in bacteria, and infectious recombinant (r)ZIKV is recovered in Vero cells after transfection of the BAC cDNA clone. The protocol described here provides a powerful technique for the generation of infectious clones of flaviviruses, including ZIKV, and other positive-strand RNA viruses, particularly those with large genomes that have stability problems during bacterialpropagation.