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Neutralization, effector function and immune imprinting of Omicron variants


Abstract

Currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants have acquired convergent mutations at hot spots in the receptor-binding domain$^{1}$ (RBD) of the spike protein. The effects of these mutations on viral infection and transmission and the efficacy of vaccines and therapies remains poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that recently emerged BQ.1.1 and XBB.1.5 variants bind host ACE2 with high affinity and promote membrane fusion more efficiently than earlier Omicron variants. Structures of the BQ.1.1, XBB.1 and BN.1 RBDs bound to the fragment antigen-binding region of the S309 antibody (the parent antibody for sotrovimab) and human ACE2 explain the preservation of antibody binding through conformational selection, altered ACE2 recognition and immune evasion. We show that sotrovimab binds avidly to all Omicron variants, promotes Fc-dependent effector functions and protects mice challenged with BQ.1.1 and hamsters challenged with XBB.1.5. Vaccine-elicited human plasma antibodies cross-react with and trigger effector functions against current Omicron variants, despite a reduced neutralizing activity, suggesting a mechanism of protection against disease, exemplified by S309. Cross-reactive RBD-directed human memory B cells remained dominant even after two exposures to Omicron spikes, underscoring the role of persistent immune imprinting.

Abstract

Currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants have acquired convergent mutations at hot spots in the receptor-binding domain$^{1}$ (RBD) of the spike protein. The effects of these mutations on viral infection and transmission and the efficacy of vaccines and therapies remains poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that recently emerged BQ.1.1 and XBB.1.5 variants bind host ACE2 with high affinity and promote membrane fusion more efficiently than earlier Omicron variants. Structures of the BQ.1.1, XBB.1 and BN.1 RBDs bound to the fragment antigen-binding region of the S309 antibody (the parent antibody for sotrovimab) and human ACE2 explain the preservation of antibody binding through conformational selection, altered ACE2 recognition and immune evasion. We show that sotrovimab binds avidly to all Omicron variants, promotes Fc-dependent effector functions and protects mice challenged with BQ.1.1 and hamsters challenged with XBB.1.5. Vaccine-elicited human plasma antibodies cross-react with and trigger effector functions against current Omicron variants, despite a reduced neutralizing activity, suggesting a mechanism of protection against disease, exemplified by S309. Cross-reactive RBD-directed human memory B cells remained dominant even after two exposures to Omicron spikes, underscoring the role of persistent immune imprinting.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:21 September 2023
Deposited On:13 Sep 2023 07:42
Last Modified:29 Jun 2024 01:38
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:0028-0836
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06487-6
PubMed ID:37648855
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)