A bifluorescent-based assay for the identification of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in vitro and in vivo

Academic Article


  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged at the end of 2019 and has been responsible for the still ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Prophylactic vaccines have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of COVID-19. Identification of SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) is important to assess vaccine protection efficacy, including their ability to protect against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VoC). Here, we report the generation and use of a recombinant (r)SARS-CoV-2 USA/WA1/2020 (WA-1) strain expressing Venus and an rSARS-CoV-2 strain expressing mCherry and containing mutations K417N, E484K, and N501Y found in the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the spike (S) glycoprotein of the South African (SA) B.1.351 (beta [β]) VoC in bifluorescent-based assays to rapidly and accurately identify human monoclonal antibodies (hMAbs) able to neutralize both viral infections in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, our bifluorescent-based system accurately recapitulated findings observed using individual viruses. Moreover, fluorescent-expressing rSARS-CoV-2 strain and the parental wild-type (WT) rSARS-CoV-2 WA-1 strain had similar viral fitness in vitro, as well as similar virulence and pathogenicity in vivo in the K18 human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) transgenic mouse model of SARS-CoV-2 infection. We demonstrate that these new fluorescent-expressing rSARS-CoV-2 can be used in vitro and in vivo to easily identify hMAbs that simultaneously neutralize different SARS-CoV-2 strains, including VoC, for the rapid assessment of vaccine efficacy or the identification of prophylactic and/or therapeutic broadly NAbs for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Chiem K; Vasquez DM; Silvas JA; Park JG; Piepenbrink MS; Sourimant J; Lin MJ; Greninger AL; Plemper RK; Torrelles JB
  • Volume

  • 95
  • Issue

  • 22