The functions of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing and infection-enhancing antibodies in vitro and in mice and nonhuman primates

bioRxiv. 2021 Jan 2;2020.12.31.424729. doi: 10.1101/2020.12.31.424729. Preprint


SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) protect against COVID-19, making them a focus of vaccine design. A safety concern regarding SARS-CoV-2 antibodies is whether they mediate disease enhancement. Here, we isolated potent NAbs against the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and the N-terminal domain (NTD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein from individuals with acute or convalescent SARS-CoV-2 or a history of SARS-CoV-1 infection. Cryo-electron microscopy of RBD and NTD antibodies demonstrated function-specific modes of antibody binding. Select RBD NAbs also demonstrated Fc receptor-γ (FcγR)-mediated enhancement of virus infection in vitro , while five non-neutralizing NTD antibodies mediated FcγR-independent in vitro infection enhancement. However, both in vitro neutralizing and infection-enhancing RBD or infection-enhancing NTD antibodies protected from SARS-CoV-2 challenge in non-human primates and mice. One of 30 monkeys infused with enhancing antibodies had lung pathology and bronchoalveolar lavage cytokine evidence suggestive of enhanced disease. Thus, these in vitro assessments of enhanced antibody-mediated infection do not necessarily indicate biologically relevant in vivo infection enhancement.

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