Antibody responses to endemic coronaviruses modulate COVID-19 convalescent plasma functionality

J Clin Invest. 2021 Apr 1;131(7):e146927. doi: 10.1172/JCI146927.


SARS-CoV-2 (CoV2) antibody therapies, including COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP), monoclonal antibodies, and hyperimmune globulin, are among the leading treatments for individuals with early COVID-19 infection. The functionality of convalescent plasma varies greatly, but the association of antibody epitope specificities with plasma functionality remains uncharacterized. We assessed antibody functionality and reactivities to peptides across the CoV2 and the 4 endemic human coronavirus (HCoV) genomes in 126 CCP donations. We found strong correlation between plasma functionality and polyclonal antibody targeting of CoV2 spike protein peptides. Antibody reactivity to many HCoV spike peptides also displayed strong correlation with plasma functionality, including pan-coronavirus cross-reactive epitopes located in a conserved region of the fusion peptide. After accounting for antibody cross-reactivity, we identified an association between greater alphacoronavirus NL63 antibody responses and development of highly neutralizing antibodies against CoV2. We also found that plasma preferentially reactive to the CoV2 spike receptor binding domain (RBD), versus the betacoronavirus HKU1 RBD, had higher neutralizing titer. Finally, we developed a 2-peptide serosignature that identifies plasma donations with high anti-spike titer, but that suffer from low neutralizing activity. These results suggest that analysis of coronavirus antibody fine specificities may be useful for selecting desired therapeutics and understanding the complex immune responses elicited by CoV2 infection.

Keywords: Adaptive immunity; Immunology; Infectious disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Antibody Specificity
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / therapy*
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • COVID-19 Serotherapy
  • Coronavirus / classification
  • Coronavirus / genetics
  • Coronavirus / immunology*
  • Cross Reactions
  • Endemic Diseases
  • Genome, Viral
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive
  • Immunodominant Epitopes / chemistry
  • Immunodominant Epitopes / genetics
  • Immunodominant Epitopes / immunology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / chemistry
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / genetics
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2