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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-10.1101.2022.09.30.509852


Memory B cells (MBCs) generate rapid antibody responses upon secondary encounter with a pathogen. Here, we investigated the kinetics, avidity and cross-reactivity of serum antibodies and MBCs in 155 SARS-CoV-2 infected and vaccinated individuals over a 16-month timeframe. SARS-CoV-2-specific MBCs and serum antibodies reached steady-state titers with comparable kinetics in infected and vaccinated individuals. Whereas MBCs of infected individuals targeted both pre- and postfusion Spike (S), most vaccine-elicited MBCs were specific for prefusion S, consistent with the use of prefusion-stabilized S in mRNA vaccines. Furthermore, a large fraction of MBCs recognizing postfusion S cross-reacted with human betacoronaviruses. The avidity of MBC-derived and serum antibodies increased over time resulting in enhanced resilience to viral escape by SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 sub-lineages, albeit only partially for BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages. Overall, the maturation of high-affinity and broadly-reactive MBCs provides the basis for effective recall responses to future SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome , Lymphoma, B-Cell , Infections
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.05.08.491108


SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sublineages carry distinct spike mutations and represent an antigenic shift resulting in escape from antibodies induced by previous infection or vaccination. We show that hybrid immunity or vaccine boosters result in potent plasma neutralizing activity against Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 and that breakthrough infections, but not vaccination-only, induce neutralizing activity in the nasal mucosa. Consistent with immunological imprinting, most antibodies derived from memory B cells or plasma cells of Omicron breakthrough cases cross-react with the Wuhan-Hu-1, BA.1 and BA.2 receptor-binding domains whereas Omicron primary infections elicit B cells of narrow specificity. While most clinical antibodies have reduced neutralization of Omicron, we identified an ultrapotent pan-variant antibody, that is unaffected by any Omicron lineage spike mutations and is a strong candidate for clinical development.

Breakthrough Pain
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.12.12.472269


The recently emerged SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant harbors 37 amino acid substitutions in the spike (S) protein, 15 of which are in the receptor-binding domain (RBD), thereby raising concerns about the effectiveness of available vaccines and antibody therapeutics. Here, we show that the Omicron RBD binds to human ACE2 with enhanced affinity relative to the Wuhan-Hu-1 RBD and acquires binding to mouse ACE2. Severe reductions of plasma neutralizing activity were observed against Omicron compared to the ancestral pseudovirus for vaccinated and convalescent individuals. Most (26 out of 29) receptor-binding motif (RBM)-directed monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) lost in vitro neutralizing activity against Omicron, with only three mAbs, including the ACE2-mimicking S2K146 mAb, retaining unaltered potency. Furthermore, a fraction of broadly neutralizing sarbecovirus mAbs recognizing antigenic sites outside the RBM, including sotrovimab, S2X259 and S2H97, neutralized Omicron. The magnitude of Omicron-mediated immune evasion and the acquisition of binding to mouse ACE2 mark a major SARS-CoV-2 mutational shift. Broadly neutralizing sarbecovirus mAbs recognizing epitopes conserved among SARS-CoV-2 variants and other sarbecoviruses may prove key to controlling the ongoing pandemic and future zoonotic spillovers.

medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.10.05.21264054


Patients on dialysis are at risk of severe course of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Understanding the neutralizing activity and coverage of SARS-CoV-2 variants of vaccine-elicited antibodies is required to guide prophylactic and therapeutic COVID-19 interventions in this frail population. By analyzing plasma samples from 130 hemodialysis (HD) and 13 peritoneal dialysis patients after two doses of BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 vaccines, we found that 35% of the patients had low-level or undetectable IgG antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S). Neutralizing antibodies against the vaccine-matched SARS-CoV-2 and Delta variant were low or undetectable in 49% and 77% of patients, respectively, and were further reduced against other emerging variants. The fraction of non-responding patients was higher in SARS-CoV-2-naive HD patients immunized with BNT162b2 (66%) than those immunized with mRNA-1273 (23%). The reduced neutralizing activity correlated with low antibody avidity, consistent with a delayed affinity maturation of SARS-CoV-2 S-specific B cells. These data indicate that dialysis patients should be considered for an additional boost and other therapeutic strategies, including early immunotherapy with monoclonal antibodies.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome , COVID-19