In vitro and in vivo functions of SARS-CoV-2 infection-enhancing and neutralizing antibodies


SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) protect against COVID-19. A concern regarding SARS-CoV-2 antibodies is whether they mediate disease enhancement. Here, we isolated NAbs against the receptor-binding domain (RBD) or the N-terminal domain (NTD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike from individuals with acute or convalescent SARS-CoV-2 or a history of SARS-CoV infection. Cryo-electron microscopy of RBD and NTD antibodies demonstrated function-specific modes of binding. Select RBD NAbs also demonstrated Fc receptor-γ (FcγR)-mediated enhancement of virus infection in vitro, while five non-neutralizing NTD antibodies mediated FcγR-independent in vitro infection enhancement. However, both types of infection-enhancing antibodies protected from SARS-CoV-2 replication in monkeys and mice. Three of 46 monkeys infused with enhancing antibodies had higher lung inflammation scores compared to controls. One monkey had alveolar edema and elevated bronchoalveolar lavage inflammatory cytokines. Thus, while in vitro antibody-enhanced infection does not necessarily herald enhanced infection in vivo, increased lung inflammation can rarely occur in SARS-CoV-2 antibody-infused macaques.





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Publication Info

Li, Dapeng, Robert J Edwards, Kartik Manne, David R Martinez, Alexandra Schäfer, S Munir Alam, Kevin Wiehe, Xiaozhi Lu, et al. (2021). In vitro and in vivo functions of SARS-CoV-2 infection-enhancing and neutralizing antibodies. Cell, 184(16). pp. 4203–4219. 10.1016/j.cell.2021.06.021 Retrieved from

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S. Munir Alam

Professor in Medicine

Research Interests. 

The Alam laboratory’s primary research is focused on understanding the biophysical properties of antigen-antibody binding and the molecular events of early B cell activation using the HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibody (bnAb) lineage models. We are studying how HIV-1 Envelope proteins of varying affinities are sensed by B cells expressing HIV-1 bnAbs or their germline antigen receptors and initiate early signaling events for their activation. In the long-term these studies will facilitate design and pre-selection of immunogens for testing in animal models and accelerate HIV-1 vaccine development.
Current research include the following NIAID-funded projects   

Antigen recognition and activation of B cell antigen receptors with the specificity of HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies. This project involves elucidating the early events on the B cell surface following antigen (Ag) engagement of the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) and to provide an assessment of the in vivo potential of an Ag to drive B cell activation. We are performing biophysical interactions analyses and using high-resolution microscopy to define the physico-chemical properties of BCR-Ag interactions that govern signaling and activation thresholds for BCR triggering and the BCR endocytic function in antigen internalization. The overall objective of these studies is to bridge the quantitative biophysical and membrane dynamics measurements of Ag-BCR interactions to ex-vivo and in-vivo B cell activation. This NIAID-funded research is a collaboration with co-investigators Professor Michael Reth (University of Freiburg, Germany) and Dr. Laurent Verkoczy (San Diego Biomedical Research Institute, CA).  

Immunogen Design for Induction of HIV gp41 Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies. This research project addresses the critical problem of vaccine induction of disfavored HIV-1 antibody lineages, like those that target the membrane proximal external region (MPER) of HIV Env gp41. This program combines structure and lineage-based vaccine development strategies to design immunogens that will induce bnAb lineages that are not polyreactive and therefore easier to induce. The overall objective of this program grant is to develop and test sequential immunogens that will initiate and induce HIV-1 bnAb lineages like the potent MPER bnAb DH511. Using a germline-targeting (GT) epitope scaffold design and a prime/boost strategy, we are testing induction of DH511-like bnAbs in knock-in (KI) mice models expressing the DH511 germline receptors. This P01 research program is in collaboration with Dr. William Schief (The Scripps Research Institute, CA), who leads the team that are designing germline targeting (GT)-scaffold prime and boost immunogens and Dr. Ming Tian at Harvard University who developed relevant knock-mice models for the study.

Kevin J Wiehe

Norman L. Letvin Associate Professor in Medicine

Dr. Kevin Wiehe is the associate director of research, director of computational biology and co-director of the Quantitative Research Division at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI). He has over 20 years of experience in the field of computational biology and has expertise in computational structural biology, computational genomics, and computational immunology.

For the past decade, he has applied his unique background to developing computational approaches for studying the B cell response in both the infection and vaccination settings. He has utilized his expertise in computational structural biology to structurally model and characterize HIV and influenza antibody recognition. Dr. Wiehe has utilized his expertise in computational genomics and computational immunology to develop software to analyze large scale next generation sequencing data of antibody repertoires as well as develop computational programs for estimating antibody mutation probabilities. Dr. Wiehe has shown that low probability antibody mutations can act as rate-limiting steps in the development of broadly neutralizing antibodies in HIV.

Through his PhD, postdoc work, and now his roles at DHVI, Dr. Wiehe always approaches the analysis and the scientific discovery process from a structural biology perspective. Supporting the Duke Center for HIV Structural Biology (DCHSB), Dr. Wiehe will conduct antibody sequence analysis for antibodies used in computational and molecular modeling analyses conducted.

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