The BNT162b2 mRNA SARS-CoV-2 vaccine induces transient afucosylated IgG1 in naive but not in antigen-experienced vaccinees

EBioMedicine. 2023 Jan:87:104408. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2022.104408. Epub 2022 Dec 16.


Background: Afucosylated IgG1 responses have only been found against membrane-embedded epitopes, including anti-S in SARS-CoV-2 infections. These responses, intrinsically protective through enhanced FcγRIIIa binding, can also trigger exacerbated pro-inflammatory responses in severe COVID-19. We investigated if the BNT162b2 SARS-CoV-2 mRNA also induced afucosylated IgG responses.

Methods: Blood from vaccinees during the first vaccination wave was collected. Liquid chromatography-Mass spectrometry (LC-MS) was used to study anti-S IgG1 Fc glycoprofiles. Responsiveness of alveolar-like macrophages to produce proinflammatory cytokines in presence of sera and antigen was tested. Antigen-specific B cells were characterized and glycosyltransferase levels were investigated by Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorting (FACS).

Findings: Initial transient afucosylated anti-S IgG1 responses were found in naive vaccinees, but not in antigen-experienced ones. All vaccinees had increased galactosylated and sialylated anti-S IgG1. Both naive and antigen-experienced vaccinees showed relatively low macrophage activation potential, as expected, due to the low antibody levels for naive individuals with afucosylated IgG1, and low afucosylation levels for antigen-experienced individuals with high levels of anti-S. Afucosylation levels correlated with FUT8 expression in antigen-specific plasma cells in naive individuals. Interestingly, low fucosylation of anti-S IgG1 upon seroconversion correlated with high anti-S IgG levels after the second dose.

Interpretation: Here, we show that BNT162b2 mRNA vaccination induces transient afucosylated anti-S IgG1 responses in naive individuals. This observation warrants further studies to elucidate the clinical context in which potent afucosylated responses would be preferred.

Funding: LSBR1721, 1908; ZonMW10430012010021, 09150161910033, 10430012010008; DFG398859914, 400912066, 390884018; PMI; DOI4-Nr. 3; H2020-MSCA-ITN 721815.

Keywords: Antibodies; COVID-19; Fucosylation; Glycosylation; mRNA Vaccine.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral
  • BNT162 Vaccine
  • COVID-19 Vaccines*
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Vaccination


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • BNT162 Vaccine
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Antibodies, Viral