Ebola surface glycoprotein (blue) bound by antibodies (brown). In dark blue
are other known epitopes (antibody binding sites). In orange and red
are mutations from the recent epidemic in West Africa.
The goal of this project, which was funded by DEB-1521049 from the National Science Foundation, was to determine the functional implications of ongoing and future Ebola protein evolution. A combination of statistical and molecular modeling techniques were used to determine how evolution modifies the properties of the Ebola glycoprotein and its ability to bind antibodies. The project provided health agencies with a “watch list” of potential mutants that could hamper vaccination efforts and lower population immunity to Ebola. The project also provided a new perspective on the evolutionary history of EBOV, the causative agent of the recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in several countries in western Africa.