Zika virus is spread by Aedes mosquitoes and is linked to acute neurological disorders, especially to microcephaly in newborn children and Guillan-Barré Syndrome. The NS2B-NS3 protease of this virus is responsible for polyprotein processing and therefore considered an attractive drug target. In this study, we have used the Hybrid Combinatorial Substrate Library (HyCoSuL) approach to determine the substrate specificity of ZIKV NS2B-NS3 protease in the P4-P1 positions using natural and a large spectrum of unnatural amino acids. Obtained data demonstrate a high level of specificity of the S3-S1 subsites, especially for basic amino acids. However, the S4 site exhibits a very broad preference toward natural and unnatural amino acids with selected D-amino acids being favored over L enantiomers. This information was used for the design of a very potent phosphonate inhibitor/activity-based probe of ZIKV NS2B-NS3 protease.
Rut, W., Zhang, L., Kasperkiewicz, P., Poreba, M., Hilgenfeld, R., & Drąg, M. (2017). Extended substrate specificity and first potent irreversible inhibitor/activity-based probe design for Zika virus NS2B-NS3 protease. Antiviral Research, 139, 88–94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.antiviral.2016.12.018