Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) remains a significant public health concern after the epidemic in 2003. Human monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that neutralize SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) could provide protection for exposed individuals.
Methods: Transgenic mice with human immunoglobulin genes were immunized with the recombinant major surface (S) glycoprotein ectodomain of SARS-CoV. Epitopes of 2 neutralizing MAbs derived from these mice were mapped and evaluated in a murine model of SARS-CoV infection.
Results: Both MAbs bound to S glycoprotein expressed on transfected cells but differed in their ability to block binding of S glycoprotein to Vero E6 cells. Immunoprecipitation analysis revealed 2 antibody-binding epitopes: one MAb (201) bound within the receptor-binding domain at aa 490-510, and the other MAb (68) bound externally to the domain at aa 130-150. Mice that received 40 mg/kg of either MAb prior to challenge with SARS-CoV were completely protected from virus replication in the lungs, and doses as low as 1.6 mg/kg offered significant protection.
Conclusions: Two neutralizing epitopes were defined for MAbs to SARS-CoV S glycoprotein. Antibodies to both epitopes protected mice against SARS-CoV challenge. Clinical trials are planned to test MAb 201, a fully human MAb specific for the epitope within the receptor-binding region.