Receptor-binding domain of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus spike protein contains multiple conformation-dependent epitopes that induce highly potent neutralizing antibodies

Yuxian He, Hong Lu, Pamela Siddiqui, Yusen Zhou, Shibo Jiang
Journal of Immunology 2005 April 15, 174 (8): 4908-15
The spike (S) protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a major antigenic determinant capable of inducing protective immunity. Recently, a small fragment on the SARS-CoV S protein (residues 318-510) was characterized as a minimal receptor-binding domain (RBD), which mediates virus binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, the functional receptor on susceptible cells. In this study, we demonstrated that a fusion protein containing RBD linked to human IgG1 Fc fragment (designated RBD-Fc) induced high titer of RBD-specific Abs in the immunized mice. The mouse antisera effectively neutralized infection by both SARS-CoV and SARS pseudovirus with mean 50% neutralization titers of 1/15,360 and 1/24,737, respectively. The neutralization determinants on the RBD of S protein were characterized by a panel of 27 mAbs isolated from the immunized mice. Six groups of conformation-dependent epitopes, designated as Conf I-VI, and two adjacent linear epitopes were identified by ELISA and binding competition assays. The Conf IV and Conf V mAbs significantly blocked RBD-Fc binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, suggesting that their epitopes overlap with the receptor-binding sites in the S protein. Most of the mAbs (23 of 25) that recognized the conformational epitopes possessed potent neutralizing activities against SARS pseudovirus with 50% neutralizing dose ranging from 0.005 to 6.569 microg/ml. Therefore, the RBD of SARS S protein contains multiple conformational epitopes capable of inducing potent neutralizing Ab responses, and is an important target site for developing vaccines and immunotherapeutics.

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