Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are the basis of treatments and diagnostics for pathogens and other biological phenomena. We conducted a structural characterization of mAbs against the N-terminal domain of nucleocapsid protein (NPNTD) from SARS-CoV-2 using small-angle X-ray scattering and transmission electron microscopy. Our solution-based results distinguished the mAbs' flexibility and how this flexibility affects the assembly of multiple mAbs on an antigen. By pairing two mAbs that bind different epitopes on the NPNTD, we show that flexible mAbs form a closed sandwich-like complex. With rigid mAbs, a juxtaposition of the antigen-binding fragments is prevented, enforcing a linear arrangement of the mAb pair, which facilitates further mAb polymerization. In a modified sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we show that rigid mAb-pairings with linear polymerization led to increased NPNTD detection sensitivity. These enhancements can expedite the development of more sensitive and selective antigen-detecting point-of-care lateral flow devices, which are critical for early diagnosis and epidemiological studies of SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens.
Keywords: SARS-cov-2; flexibility; mAbs polymerization; nucleocapsid; small-angle x-ray scattering.