Research ArticleCORONAVIRUS

Stereotypic neutralizing VH antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain in COVID-19 patients and healthy individuals

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Science Translational Medicine  04 Jan 2021:
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abd6990


Stereotypic antibody clonotypes exist in healthy individuals and may provide protective immunity against viral infections by neutralization. We observed that 13 out of 17 patients with COVID-19 had stereotypic variable heavy chain (VH) antibody clonotypes directed against the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. These antibody clonotypes were comprised of immunoglobulin heavy variable (IGHV)3-53 or IGHV3-66 and immunoglobulin heavy joining (IGHJ)6 genes. These clonotypes included IgM, IgG3, IgG1, IgA1, IgG2, and IgA2 subtypes and had minimal somatic mutations, which suggested swift class switching after SARS-CoV-2 infection. The different immunoglobulin heavy variable chains were paired with diverse light chains resulting in binding to the RBD of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Human antibodies specific for the RBD can neutralize SARS-CoV-2 by inhibiting entry into host cells. We observed that one of these stereotypic neutralizing antibodies could inhibit viral replication in vitro using a clinical isolate of SARS-CoV-2. We also found that these VH clonotypes existed in six out of 10 healthy individuals, with IgM isotypes predominating. These findings suggest that stereotypic clonotypes can develop de novo from naïve B cells and not from memory B cells established from prior exposure to similar viruses. The expeditious and stereotypic expansion of these clonotypes may have occurred in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 because they were already present.

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