SARS-CoV-2 surface spike protein mediates the viral entry into the host cell and represents the primary immunological target of COVID-19 vaccines as well as post-exposure immunotherapy. Establishment of the highly immunogenic B-cell epitope profile of SARS-CoV-2 proteins in general, and that of the spike protein in particular, may contribute to the development of sensitive diagnostic tools and identification of vaccine` candidate targets. In the current study, the anti-viral antibody response in transgenic K18-hACE-2 mice was examined by implementing an immunodominant epitope mapping approach of the SARS-CoV-2 spike. Serum samples for probing an epitope array covering the entire spike protein were collected from mice following infection with the original SARS-CoV-2 strain as well as the B.1.1.7 Alpha and B.1.351 Beta genetic variants of concern. The analysis resulted in distinction of six linear epitopes common to the humoral response against all virus variants inspected at a frequency of more than 20% of the serum samples. Finally, the universality of the response was probed by cross-protective in vitro experiments using plaque-reducing neutralization tests. The data presented here has important implications for prediction of the efficacy of immune countermeasures against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.
- Epitope mapping
- Linear epitopes