Nanobody derived using a peptide epitope from the spike protein receptor-binding motif inhibits entry of SARS-CoV-2 variants

J Biol Chem. 2023 Jan;299(1):102732. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2022.102732. Epub 2022 Nov 22.


The emergence of new escape mutants of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has escalated its penetration among the human population and has reinstated its status as a global pandemic. Therefore, developing effective antiviral therapy against emerging SARS-CoV variants and other viruses in a short period becomes essential. Blocking SARS-CoV-2 entry into human host cells by disrupting the spike glycoprotein-angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 interaction has already been exploited for vaccine development and monoclonal antibody therapy. Unlike the previous reports, our study used a nine-amino acid peptide from the receptor-binding motif of the spike protein as an epitope. We report the identification of an efficacious nanobody N1.2 that blocks the entry of pseudovirus-containing SARS-CoV-2 spike as the surface glycoprotein. Moreover, using mCherry fluorescence-based reporter assay, we observe a more potent neutralizing effect against both the hCoV19 (Wuhan/WIV04/2019) and the Omicron (BA.1) pseudotyped spike virus with a bivalent version of the N1.2 nanobody. In summary, our study presents a rapid and efficient methodology to use peptide sequences from a protein-receptor interaction interface as epitopes for screening nanobodies against potential pathogenic targets. We propose that this approach can also be widely extended to target other viruses and pathogens in the future.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; nanobody; peptides; virus entry; yeast display.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19
  • Epitopes
  • Humans
  • Peptides
  • SARS-CoV-2* / physiology
  • Single-Domain Antibodies* / pharmacology
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / chemistry
  • Virus Internalization* / drug effects


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Epitopes
  • Peptides
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • Single-Domain Antibodies

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants