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biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.11.28.569129


Immune imprinting - also known as original antigenic sin - describes how the first exposure to a virus shapes the immunological outcome of subsequent exposures to antigenically related strains. SARS-CoV-2 Omicron breakthrough infections and bivalent COVID-19 vaccination were shown to primarily recall cross-reactive memory B cells and antibodies induced by prior mRNA vaccination with the Wuhan-Hu-1 spike rather than priming naive B cells that recognize Omicron-specific epitopes. These findings underscored a strong immune imprinting resulting from repeated Wuhan-Hu-1 spike exposures. To understand if immune imprinting can be overcome, we investigated memory and plasma antibody responses after administration of the updated XBB.1.5 COVID mRNA vaccine booster. Our data show that the XBB.1.5 booster elicits neutralizing antibody responses against current variants that are dominated by recall of pre-existing memory B cells previously induced by the Wuhan-Hu-1 spike. These results indicate that immune imprinting persists even after multiple exposures to Omicron spikes through vaccination and infection, including post XBB.1.5 spike booster mRNA vaccination, which will need to be considered to guide the design of future vaccine boosters.

biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.01.17.523798


Currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants acquired convergent mutations at receptor-binding domain (RBD) hot spots. Their impact on viral infection, transmission, and efficacy of vaccines and therapeutics remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that recently emerged BQ.1.1. and XBB.1 variants bind ACE2 with high affinity and promote membrane fusion more efficiently than earlier Omicron variants. Structures of the BQ.1.1 and XBB.1 RBDs bound to human ACE2 and S309 Fab (sotrovimab parent) explain the altered ACE2 recognition and preserved antibody binding through conformational selection. We show that sotrovimab binds avidly to all Omicron variants, promotes Fc-dependent effector functions and protects mice challenged with BQ.1.1, the variant displaying the greatest loss of neutralization. Moreover, in several donors vaccine-elicited plasma antibodies cross-react with and trigger effector functions against Omicron variants despite reduced neutralizing activity. Cross-reactive RBD-directed human memory B cells remained dominant even after two exposures to Omicron spikes, underscoring persistent immune imprinting. Our findings suggest that this previously overlooked class of cross-reactive antibodies, exemplified by S309, may contribute to protection against disease caused by emerging variants through elicitation of effector functions.

biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.01.21.477288


The SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain (RBD) E406W mutation abrogates neutralization mediated by the REGEN-CoV therapeutic monoclonal antibody (mAb) COVID-19 cocktail and the cilgavimab (AZD1061) mAb. Here, we show that this residue substitution remodels the ACE2-binding site allosterically, thereby dampening receptor recognition severely and altering the epitopes recognized by these three mAbs. Although vaccine-elicited neutralizing antibody titers are decreased similarly against the E406 mutant and the Delta or Epsilon variants, broadly neutralizing sarbecovirus mAbs, including a clinical mAb, inhibit the E406W spike mutant.

biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.08.11.455956


Worldwide SARS-CoV-2 transmission leads to the recurrent emergence of variants, such as the recently described B.1.617.1 (kappa), B.1.617.2 (delta) and B.1.617.2+ (delta+). The B.1.617.2 (delta) variant of concern is causing a new wave of infections in many countries, mostly affecting unvaccinated individuals, and has become globally dominant. We show that these variants dampen the in vitro potency of vaccine-elicited serum neutralizing antibodies and provide a structural framework for describing the impact of individual mutations on immune evasion. Mutations in the B.1.617.1 (kappa) and B.1.617.2 (delta) spike glycoproteins abrogate recognition by several monoclonal antibodies via alteration of key antigenic sites, including an unexpected remodeling of the B.1.617.2 (delta) N-terminal domain. The binding affinity of the B.1.617.1 (kappa) and B.1.617.2 (delta) receptor-binding domain for ACE2 is comparable to the ancestral virus whereas B.1.617.2+ (delta+) exhibits markedly reduced affinity. We describe a previously uncharacterized class of N-terminal domain-directed human neutralizing monoclonal antibodies cross-reacting with several variants of concern, revealing a possible target for vaccine development.