We are very happy to share our latest publication about SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies!
v.l.n.r. Florian, Christoph, Timm, Svea, Matthias, Michi Foto: Michael Wodak, MedizinFoto Köln
Somatic hypermutation (SHM) drives affinity maturation and continues over months in SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies (nAbs). However, several potent SARS-CoV-2 antibodies carry no or only a few mutations, leaving the question of how ongoing SHM affects neutralization unclear. Here, we reverted variable region mutations of 92 antibodies and tested their impact on SARS-CoV-2 binding and neutralization. Reverting higher numbers of mutations correlated with decreasing antibody functionality. However, for some antibodies, including antibodies of the public clonotype VH1-58, neutralization of Wu01 remained unaffected. Although mutations were dispensable for Wu01-induced VH1-58 antibodies to neutralize Alpha, Beta, and Delta variants, they were critical for Omicron BA.1/BA.2 neutralization. We exploited this knowledge to convert the clinical antibody tixagevimab into a BA.1/BA.2 neutralizer. These findings broaden our understanding of SHM as a mechanism that not only improves antibody responses during affinity maturation but also contributes to antibody diversification, thus increasing the chances of neutralizing viral escape variants.