FN3-based monobodies selective for the receptor binding domain of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein

N Biotechnol. 2021 May 25;62:79-85. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2021.01.010. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


A phage library displaying 1010 variants of the fibronectin type III (FN3) domain was affinity selected with the biotinylated form of the receptor binding domain (RBD, residues 319-541) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. Nine binding FN3 variants (i.e. monobodies) were recovered, representing four different primary structures. Soluble forms of the monobodies bound to several different preparations of the RBD and the S1 spike subunit, with affinities ranging from 3 to 14 nM as measured by bio-layer interferometry. Three of the four monobodies bound selectively to the RBD of SARS-CoV-2, with the fourth monobody showing slight cross-reactivity to the RBD of SARS-CoV-1 virus. Examination of binding to the spike fragments and its trimeric form revealed that the monobodies recognise at least three overlapping epitopes on the RBD of SARS-CoV-2. While pairwise tests failed to identify a monobody pair that could bind simultaneously to the RBD, one monobody could simultaneously bind to the RBD with the ectodomain of the cellular receptor angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). All four monobodies successfully bound the RBD after overexpression in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells as fusions to the Fc domain of human IgG1.

Keywords: Affinity selection; Angiotensin-converting enzyme; Coronavirus; Monobody; Phage-display; Receptor; SARS-CoV-1 virus; SARS-CoV-2 virus; Spike protein.

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / immunology*
  • Antibody Specificity*
  • Cell Line
  • Cross Reactions
  • Epitopes / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Protein Domains
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Single-Chain Antibodies / immunology*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / immunology*


  • Epitopes
  • Single-Chain Antibodies
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2