The landscape of antibody binding in SARS-CoV-2 infection

PLoS Biol. 2021 Jun 18;19(6):e3001265. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001265. eCollection 2021 Jun.


The search for potential antibody-based diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics for pandemic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has focused almost exclusively on the spike (S) and nucleocapsid (N) proteins. Coronavirus membrane (M), ORF3a, and ORF8 proteins are humoral immunogens in other coronaviruses (CoVs) but remain largely uninvestigated for SARS-CoV-2. Here, we use ultradense peptide microarray mapping to show that SARS-CoV-2 infection induces robust antibody responses to epitopes throughout the SARS-CoV-2 proteome, particularly in M, in which 1 epitope achieved excellent diagnostic accuracy. We map 79 B cell epitopes throughout the SARS-CoV-2 proteome and demonstrate that antibodies that develop in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection bind homologous peptide sequences in the 6 other known human CoVs. We also confirm reactivity against 4 of our top-ranking epitopes by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Illness severity correlated with increased reactivity to 9 SARS-CoV-2 epitopes in S, M, N, and ORF3a in our population. Our results demonstrate previously unknown, highly reactive B cell epitopes throughout the full proteome of SARS-CoV-2 and other CoV proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / pathology
  • Coronavirus / immunology
  • Cross Reactions
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte
  • Humans
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Proteome / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Viral Proteins / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Proteome
  • Viral Proteins