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1.
biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.01.17.523798

ABSTRACT

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.

2.
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.09.30.509852

ABSTRACT

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.

3.
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.05.22.492693

ABSTRACT

The spread of SARS-CoV-2 has fueled the COVID-19 pandemic with its enduring medical and socioeconomic challenges due to subsequent waves and long-term consequences of great concern. Here we charted the molecular basis of COVID-19 pathogenesis, by analysing patients' immune response at single-cell resolution across disease course and severity. This approach uncovered cell subpopulation-specific dysregulation in COVID-19 across disease course and severity and identified a severity-associated activation of the receptor for advanced glycation endproduct (RAGE) pathway in monocytes. In vitro experiments confirmed that monocytes bind the SARS-CoV-2 S1-RBD via RAGE and that RAGE-Spike interactions drive monocyte infection. Our results demonstrate that RAGE is a novel functional receptor of SARS-CoV-2 contributing to COVID-19 severity.

4.
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.05.08.491108

ABSTRACT

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.

5.
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.03.30.486377

ABSTRACT

Coronaviruses use diverse Spike (S) glycoproteins to attach to host receptors and fuse with target cells. Using a broad screening approach, we isolated from SARS-CoV-2 immune donors seven monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that bind to all human alpha and beta coronavirus S proteins. These mAbs recognize the fusion peptide and acquire high affinity and breadth through somatic mutations. Despite targeting a conserved motif, only some mAbs show broad neutralizing activity in vitro against alpha and beta coronaviruses, including Omicron BA.1 variant and bat WIV-1, and reduce viral titers and pathology in vivo. Structural and functional analyses show that the fusion peptide-specific mAbs bind with different modalities to a cryptic epitope which is concealed by prefusion-stabilizing 2P mutations and becomes exposed upon binding of ACE2 or ACE2-mimicking mAbs. This study identifies a new class of pan-coronavirus neutralizing mAbs and reveals a receptor-induced conformational change in the S protein that exposes the fusion peptide region.

6.
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.12.12.472269

ABSTRACT

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.

7.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.10.05.21264054

ABSTRACT

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.

8.
ssrn; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-SSRN | ID: ppzbmed-10.2139.ssrn.3892765

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic presented the world to a novel class of problems highlighting distinctive features that render standard academic research and participatory processes less effective in properly informing public health interventions in a timely way. The urgency and rapidity of the emergency, requiring tight integration of novel and high-quality simulation modeling with policy implementation, render traditional participatory approaches inadequate to properly and promptly inform public health policy decisions. By introducing flexibility and agility into standard participatory processes, we aligned the modeling effort with the imposed reality of the emergency to rapidly develop a regional system dynamics model integrating diverse streams of data that could reliably inform both health system restructuring and public health policy. Counterfactual analyses quantify the impact of the decisions supported by our interventions. Moreover, our analyses supported volume flexibility strategies that increased hospital (e.g., ICU and ward beds, medical and nursing staff, and oxygen supply) capacity. Our research also contributes to our understanding of volume flexibility strategies used by healthcare organizations during emergencies. It highlights the critical aspect that time available to respond plays in the deployment of strategies that either prioritize critical services or leverage already available internal resources.

9.
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.03.23.436642

ABSTRACT

The identification of CD4+ T cell epitopes is essential for the design of effective vaccines capable of inducing neutralizing antibodies and long-term immunity. Here we demonstrate in COVID-19 patients a robust CD4+ T cell response to naturally processed SARS-CoV-2 Spike and Nucleoprotein, including effector, helper and memory T cells. By characterizing 2,943 Spike-reactive T cell clones, we found that 34% of the clones and 93% of the patients recognized a conserved immunodominant region encompassing residues S346-365 in the RBD and comprising three nested HLA-DR and HLA-DP restricted epitopes. By using pre- and post-COVID-19 samples and Spike proteins from alpha and beta coronaviruses, we provide in vivo evidence of cross-reactive T cell responses targeting multiple sites in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein. The possibility of leveraging immunodominant and cross-reactive T helper epitopes is instrumental for vaccination strategies that can be rapidly adapted to counteract emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.

10.
biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.11.04.361576

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic is a widespread and deadly public health crisis. The pathogen SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the lower respiratory tract and causes fatal pneumonia. Although tremendous efforts have been put into investigating the pathogeny of SARS-CoV-2, the underlying mechanism of how SARS-CoV-2 interacts with its host is largely unexplored. Here, by comparing the genomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 and human, we identified five fully conserved elements in SARS-CoV-2 genome, which were termed as "human identical sequences (HIS)". HIS are also recognized in both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV genome. Meanwhile, HIS-SARS-CoV-2 are highly conserved in the primate. Mechanically, HIS-SARS-CoV-2 RNA directly binds to the targeted loci in human genome and further interacts with host enhancers to activate the expression of adjacent and distant genes, including cytokines gene and angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2), a well-known cell entry receptor of SARS-CoV-2, and hyaluronan synthase 2 (HAS2), which further increases hyaluronan formation. Noteworthily, hyaluronan level in plasma of COVID-19 patients is tightly correlated with severity and high risk for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and may act as a predictor for the progression of COVID-19. HIS antagomirs, which downregulate hyaluronan level effectively, and 4-Methylumbelliferone (MU), an inhibitor of hyaluronan synthesis, are potential drugs to relieve the ARDS related ground-glass pattern in lung for COVID-19 treatment. Our results revealed that unprecedented HIS elements of SARS-CoV-2 contribute to the cytokine storm and ARDS in COVID-19 patients. Thus, blocking HIS-involved activating processes or hyaluronan synthesis directly by 4-MU may be effective strategies to alleviate COVID-19 progression.

11.
biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.11.04.355842

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 can mutate to evade immunity, with consequences for the efficacy of emerging vaccines and antibody therapeutics. Herein we demonstrate that the immunodominant SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) receptor binding motif (RBM) is the most divergent region of S, and provide epidemiological, clinical, and molecular characterization of a prevalent RBM variant, N439K. We demonstrate that N439K S protein has enhanced binding affinity to the hACE2 receptor, and that N439K virus has similar clinical outcomes and in vitro replication fitness as compared to wild- type. We observed that the N439K mutation resulted in immune escape from a panel of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, including one in clinical trials, as well as from polyclonal sera from a sizeable fraction of persons recovered from infection. Immune evasion mutations that maintain virulence and fitness such as N439K can emerge within SARS-CoV-2 S, highlighting the need for ongoing molecular surveillance to guide development and usage of vaccines and therapeutics.

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