Profile Url: tyler-stephens
Researcher at Electron Microscopy Laboratory, Cancer Research Technology Program, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research sponsored by the National Cancer Institute
The emergence of highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC) that are resistant to therapeutic antibodies highlights the need for continuing discovery of broadly reactive antibodies. We identify four receptor-binding domain targeting antibodies from three early-outbreak convalescent donors with potent neutralizing activity against 12 variants including the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 VOCs. Two of them are ultrapotent, with sub-nanomolar neutralization titers (IC50 <0.0006 to 0.0102 g/mL; IC80 < 0.0006 to 0.0251 g/mL). We define the structural and functional determinants of binding for all four VOC-targeting antibodies, and show that combinations of two antibodies decrease the in vitro generation of escape mutants, suggesting potential means to mitigate resistance development. These results define the basis of therapeutic cocktails against VOCs and suggest that targeted boosting of existing immunity may increase vaccine breadth against VOCs. One Sentence SummaryUltrapotent antibodies from convalescent donors neutralize and mitigate resistance of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.
The SARS-CoV-2 spike employs mobile receptor-binding domains (RBDs) to engage the ACE2 receptor and to facilitate virus entry. Antibodies can engage RBD but some, such as CR3022, fail to inhibit entry despite nanomolar spike affinity. Here we show the SARS-CoV-2 spike to have low unfolding enthalpy at serological pH and up to 10-times more unfolding enthalpy at endosomal pH, where we observe significantly reduced CR3022 affinity. Cryo-EM structures –at serological and endosomal pH– delineated spike recognition of up to three ACE2 molecules, revealing RBD to freely adopt the ‘up’ conformation. In the absence of ACE2, single-RBD-up conformations dominated at pH 5.5, resolving into a locked all-down conformation at lower pH. Notably, a pH-dependent refolding region (residues 824-858) at the spike-interdomain interface displayed dramatic structural rearrangements and mediated RBD positioning and spike shedding of antibodies like CR3022. An endosomal mechanism involving spike-conformational change can thus facilitate immune evasion from RBD-‘up’-recognizing antibody. Highlights ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
Since the start of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused more than 2 million deaths worldwide. Multiple vaccines have been deployed to date, but the continual evolution of the viral receptor-binding domain (RBD) has recently challenged their efficacy. In particular, SARS-CoV-2 variants originating in the U.K. (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351) and New York (B.1.526) have reduced neutralization activity from convalescent sera and compromised the efficacy of antibody cocktails that received emergency use authorization. Whereas vaccines can be updated periodically to account for emerging variants, complementary strategies are urgently needed to avert viral escape. One potential alternative is the use of camelid VHHs (also known as nanobodies), which due to their small size can recognize protein crevices that are inaccessible to conventional antibodies. Here, we isolate anti-RBD nanobodies from llamas and "nanomice" we engineered to produce VHHs cloned from alpacas, dromedaries and camels. Through binding assays and cryo-electron microscopy, we identified two sets of highly neutralizing nanobodies. The first group expresses VHHs that circumvent RBD antigenic drift by recognizing a region outside the ACE2-binding site that is conserved in coronaviruses but is not typically targeted by monoclonal antibodies. The second group is almost exclusively focused to the RBD-ACE2 interface and fails to neutralize pseudoviruses carrying the E484K or N501Y substitutions. Notably however, they do neutralize the RBD variants when expressed as homotrimers, rivaling the most potent antibodies produced to date against SARS-CoV-2. These findings demonstrate that multivalent nanobodies overcome SARS-CoV-2 variant mutations through two separate mechanisms: enhanced avidity for the ACE2 binding domain, and recognition of conserved epitopes largely inaccessible to human antibodies. Therefore, while new SARS-CoV-2 mutants will continue to emerge, nanobodies represent promising tools to prevent COVID-19 mortality when vaccines are compromised.
A number of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) to influenza virus have been isolated, characterized and developed as potential countermeasures for seasonal influenza epidemic and pandemic. Deep characterization of these bnAbs and polyclonal sera is critical to our understanding of influenza immunity and for desgining universal influenza vaccines. However, conventional influenza virus neutralization assays with live viruses require high-containment laboratories and are difficult to standardize and roboticize. Here, we built a panel of engineered influenza viruses carrying a fluorescent reporter gene to replace an essential viral gene. This restricts virus replication to cells expressing the missing viral gene in trans, allowing it to be manipulated in a biosafety level 2 environment. Using this system, we characterize the neutralization profile of a set of published and new bnAbs with a panel consisting of 55 viruses that spans the near complete antigenic evolution of human H1N1 and H3N2 viruses, as well as pandemic viruses such as H5N1 and H7N9. Our system opens opportunities to systematically characterize influenza immunity in greater depth, including the response directed at the viral hemagglutinin stem, a major target of universal influenza vaccines.