Impact of the B.1.1.7 variant on neutralizing monoclonal antibodies recognizing diverse epitopes on SARS-CoV-2 Spike.
Graham C., Seow J., Huettner I., Khan H., Kouphou N., Acors S., Winstone H., Pickering S., Pedro Galao R., Jose Lista M., Jimenez-Guardeno JM., Laing AG., Wu Y., Joseph M., Muir L., Ng WM., Duyvesteyn HME., Zhao Y., Bowden TA., Shankar-Hari M., Rosa A., Cherepanov P., McCoy LE., Hayday AC., Neil SJD., Malim MH., Doores KJ.
The interaction of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike receptor binding domain (RBD) with the ACE2 receptor on host cells is essential for viral entry. RBD is the dominant target for neutralizing antibodies and several neutralizing epitopes on RBD have been molecularly characterized. Analysis of circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants has revealed mutations arising in the RBD, the N-terminal domain (NTD) and S2 subunits of Spike. To fully understand how these mutations affect the antigenicity of Spike, we have isolated and characterized neutralizing antibodies targeting epitopes beyond the already identified RBD epitopes. Using recombinant Spike as a sorting bait, we isolated >100 Spike-reactive monoclonal antibodies from SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals. ≈45% showed neutralizing activity of which ≈20% were NTD-specific. None of the S2-specific antibodies showed neutralizing activity. Competition ELISA revealed that NTD-specific mAbs formed two distinct groups: the first group was highly potent against infectious virus, whereas the second was less potent and displayed glycan-dependant neutralization activity. Importantly, mutations present in B.1.1.7 Spike frequently conferred resistance to neutralization by the NTD-specific neutralizing antibodies. This work demonstrates that neutralizing antibodies targeting subdominant epitopes need to be considered when investigating antigenic drift in emerging variants.