Epitope Classification and RBD Binding Properties of Neutralizing Antibodies Against SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern

Academic Article


  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SAR-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19) that is responsible for short and long-term disease, as well as death, in susceptible hosts. The receptor binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) protein binds to cell surface angiotensin converting enzyme type-II (ACE2) to initiate viral attachment and ultimately viral pathogenesis. The SARS-CoV-2 S RBD is a major target of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) that block RBD - ACE2 interactions. In this report, NAb-RBD binding epitopes in the protein databank were classified as C1, C1D, C2, C3, or C4, using a RBD binding profile (BP), based on NAb-specific RBD buried surface area and used to predict the binding epitopes of a series of uncharacterized NAbs. Naturally occurring SARS-CoV-2 RBD sequence variation was also quantified to predict NAb binding sensitivities to the RBD-variants. NAb and ACE2 binding studies confirmed the NAb classifications and determined whether the RBD variants enhanced ACE2 binding to promote viral infectivity, and/or disrupted NAb binding to evade the host immune response. Of 9 single RBD mutants evaluated, K417T, E484K, and N501Y disrupted binding of 65% of the NAbs evaluated, consistent with the assignment of the SARS-CoV-2 P.1 Japan/Brazil strain as a variant of concern (VoC). RBD variants E484K and N501Y exhibited ACE2 binding equivalent to a Wuhan-1 reference SARS-CoV-2 RBD. While slightly less disruptive to NAb binding, L452R enhanced ACE2 binding affinity. Thus, the L452R mutant, associated with the SARS-CoV-2 California VoC (B.1.427/B.1.429-California), has evolved to enhance ACE2 binding, while simultaneously disrupting C1 and C2 NAb classes. The analysis also identified a non-overlapping antibody pair (1213H7 and 1215D1) that bound to all SARS-CoV-2 RBD variants evaluated, representing an excellent therapeutic option for treatment of SARS-CoV-2 WT and VoC strains.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Deshpande A; Harris BD; Martinez-Sobrido L; Kobie JJ; Walter MR
  • Volume

  • 12