Omicron escapes the majority of existing SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies

Nature. 2022 Feb;602(7898):657-663. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-04385-3. Epub 2021 Dec 23.


The SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant contains 15 mutations of the receptor-binding domain (RBD). How Omicron evades RBD-targeted neutralizing antibodies requires immediate investigation. Here we use high-throughput yeast display screening1,2 to determine the profiles of RBD escaping mutations for 247 human anti-RBD neutralizing antibodies and show that the neutralizing antibodies can be classified by unsupervised clustering into six epitope groups (A-F)-a grouping that is highly concordant with knowledge-based structural classifications3-5. Various single mutations of Omicron can impair neutralizing antibodies of different epitope groups. Specifically, neutralizing antibodies in groups A-D, the epitopes of which overlap with the ACE2-binding motif, are largely escaped by K417N, G446S, E484A and Q493R. Antibodies in group E (for example, S309)6 and group F (for example, CR3022)7, which often exhibit broad sarbecovirus neutralizing activity, are less affected by Omicron, but a subset of neutralizing antibodies are still escaped by G339D, N440K and S371L. Furthermore, Omicron pseudovirus neutralization showed that neutralizing antibodies that sustained single mutations could also be escaped, owing to multiple synergetic mutations on their epitopes. In total, over 85% of the tested neutralizing antibodies were escaped by Omicron. With regard to neutralizing-antibody-based drugs, the neutralization potency of LY-CoV016, LY-CoV555, REGN10933, REGN10987, AZD1061, AZD8895 and BRII-196 was greatly undermined by Omicron, whereas VIR-7831 and DXP-604 still functioned at a reduced efficacy. Together, our data suggest that infection with Omicron would result in considerable humoral immune evasion, and that neutralizing antibodies targeting the sarbecovirus conserved region will remain most effective. Our results inform the development of antibody-based drugs and vaccines against Omicron and future variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / metabolism
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / classification
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Viral / classification
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / immunology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Convalescence
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte / chemistry
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion / immunology*
  • Immune Sera / immunology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation
  • Neutralization Tests*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / chemistry
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / chemistry
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / genetics
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / immunology
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte
  • Immune Sera
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants