Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, contains a unique, four amino acid (aa) “PRRA” insertion in the spike (S) protein that creates a transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2)/furin cleavage site and enhances viral infectivity. More research into immunogenic epitopes and protective antibodies against this SARS-CoV-2 furin cleavage site is needed. Methods: Combining computational and experimental methods, we identified and characterized an immunogenic epitope overlapping the furin cleavage site that detects antibodies in COVID-19 patients and elicits strong antibody responses in immunized mice. We also identified a high-affinity monoclonal antibody from COVID-19 patient peripheral blood mononuclear cells; the antibody directly binds the furin cleavage site and protects against SARS-CoV-2 infection in a mouse model. Findings: The presence of “PRRA” amino acids in the S protein of SARS-CoV-2 not only creates a furin cleavage site but also generates an immunogenic epitope that elicits an antibody response in COVID-19 patients. An antibody against this epitope protected against SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice. Interpretation: The immunogenic epitope and protective antibody we have identified may augment our strategy in handling COVID-19 epidemic. Funding: The National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 82102371, 91542201, 81925025, 82073181, and 81802870), the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Initiative for Innovative Medicine ( 2021-I2M-1-047 and 2022-I2M-2-004), the Non-profit Central Research Institute Fund of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences ( 2020-PT310-006, 2019XK310002, and 2018TX31001), the National Key Research and Development Project of China ( 2020YFC0841700), US National Institute of Health (NIH) funds grant AI158154, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) AI and Charity Treks, and UCLA DGSOM BSCRC COVID-19 Award Program. H.Y. is supported by Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province ( BK20211554 and BE2022728).
|Original language||English (US)|
|State||Published - Jan 2023|
- Furin site
- Immunogenic epitope
- S protein
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)