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Eur J Immunol ; 2021 Aug 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1589126


TRIANNI mice carry an entire set of human immunoglobulin V region gene segments and are a powerful tool to rapidly isolate human monoclonal antibodies. After immunizing these mice with DNA encoding the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and boosting with spike protein, we identified 29 hybridoma antibodies that reacted with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Nine antibodies neutralize SARS-CoV-2 infection at IC50 values in the subnanomolar range. ELISA-binding studies and DNA sequence analyses revealed one cluster of three clonally related neutralizing antibodies that target the receptor-binding domain and compete with the cellular receptor hACE2. A second cluster of six clonally related neutralizing antibodies bind to the N-terminal domain of the spike protein without competing with the binding of hACE2 or cluster 1 antibodies. SARS-CoV-2 mutants selected for resistance to an antibody from one cluster are still neutralized by an antibody from the other cluster. Antibodies from both clusters markedly reduced viral spread in mice transgenic for human ACE2 and protected the animals from SARS-CoV-2-induced weight loss. The two clusters of potent noncompeting SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies provide potential candidates for therapy and prophylaxis of COVID-19. The study further supports transgenic animals with a human immunoglobulin gene repertoire as a powerful platform in pandemic preparedness initiatives.

J Virol ; 95(9)2021 04 12.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1093846


Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infects cells through interaction of its spike protein (SARS2-S) with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and activation by proteases, in particular transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2). Viruses can also spread through fusion of infected with uninfected cells. We compared the requirements of ACE2 expression, proteolytic activation, and sensitivity to inhibitors for SARS2-S-mediated and SARS-CoV-S (SARS1-S)-mediated cell-cell fusion. SARS2-S-driven fusion was moderately increased by TMPRSS2 and strongly by ACE2, while SARS1-S-driven fusion was strongly increased by TMPRSS2 and less so by ACE2 expression. In contrast to that of SARS1-S, SARS2-S-mediated cell-cell fusion was efficiently activated by batimastat-sensitive metalloproteases. Mutation of the S1/S2 proteolytic cleavage site reduced effector cell-target cell fusion when ACE2 or TMPRSS2 was limiting and rendered SARS2-S-driven cell-cell fusion more dependent on TMPRSS2. When both ACE2 and TMPRSS2 were abundant, initial target cell-effector cell fusion was unaltered compared to that of wild-type (wt) SARS2-S, but syncytia remained smaller. Mutation of the S2 cleavage (S2') site specifically abrogated activation by TMPRSS2 for both cell-cell fusion and SARS2-S-driven pseudoparticle entry but still allowed for activation by metalloproteases for cell-cell fusion and by cathepsins for particle entry. Finally, we found that the TMPRSS2 inhibitor bromhexine, unlike the inhibitor camostat, was unable to reduce TMPRSS2-activated cell-cell fusion by SARS1-S and SARS2-S. Paradoxically, bromhexine enhanced cell-cell fusion in the presence of TMPRSS2, while its metabolite ambroxol exhibited inhibitory activity under some conditions. On Calu-3 lung cells, ambroxol weakly inhibited SARS2-S-driven lentiviral pseudoparticle entry, and both substances exhibited a dose-dependent trend toward weak inhibition of authentic SARS-CoV-2.IMPORTANCE Cell-cell fusion allows viruses to infect neighboring cells without the need to produce free virus and contributes to tissue damage by creating virus-infected syncytia. Our results demonstrate that the S2' cleavage site is essential for activation by TMPRSS2 and unravel important differences between SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, among those, greater dependence of SARS-CoV-2 on ACE2 expression and activation by metalloproteases for cell-cell fusion. Bromhexine, reportedly an inhibitor of TMPRSS2, is currently being tested in clinical trials against coronavirus disease 2019. Our results indicate that bromhexine enhances fusion under some conditions. We therefore caution against the use of bromhexine in high dosages until its effects on SARS-CoV-2 spike activation are better understood. The related compound ambroxol, which similarly to bromhexine is clinically used as an expectorant, did not exhibit activating effects on cell-cell fusion. Both compounds exhibited weak inhibitory activity against SARS-CoV-2 infection at high concentrations, which might be clinically attainable for ambroxol.

COVID-19/metabolism , SARS Virus/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Virus Internalization , Ambroxol/pharmacology , Amino Acid Substitution , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , Bromhexine/pharmacology , COVID-19/genetics , Cell Line , Humans , Mutation, Missense , Proteolysis/drug effects , SARS Virus/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics , Serine Endopeptidases/metabolism , Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis ; 40(4): 751-759, 2021 Apr.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-880323


SARS-CoV-2 has emerged as a previously unknown zoonotic coronavirus that spread worldwide causing a serious pandemic. While reliable nucleic acid-based diagnostic assays were rapidly available, only a limited number of validated serological assays were available in the early phase of the pandemic. Here, we evaluated a novel flow cytometric approach to assess spike-specific antibody responses.HEK 293T cells expressing SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in its natural confirmation on the surface were used to detect specific IgG and IgM antibody responses in patient sera by flow cytometry. A soluble angiotensin-converting-enzyme 2 (ACE-2) variant was developed as external standard to quantify spike-specific antibody responses on different assay platforms. Analyses of 201 pre-COVID-19 sera proved a high assay specificity in comparison to commercially available CLIA and ELISA systems, while also revealing the highest sensitivity in specimens from PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2-infected patients. The external standard allowed robust quantification of antibody responses among different assay platforms. In conclusion, our newly established flow cytometric assay allows sensitive and quantitative detection of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies, which can be easily adopted in different laboratories and does not rely on external supply of assay kits. The flow cytometric assay also provides a blueprint for rapid development of serological tests to other emerging viral infections.

Antibodies, Viral/immunology , COVID-19 Serological Testing/methods , COVID-19/diagnosis , Immunoglobulin G/immunology , Immunoglobulin M/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay , Flow Cytometry/methods , HEK293 Cells , Humans , Reference Standards , Reproducibility of Results , Sensitivity and Specificity