Immunodominant linear B cell epitopes in the spike and membrane proteins of SARS-CoV-2 identified by immunoinformatics prediction and immunoassay

Sci Rep. 2021 Oct 14;11(1):20383. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-99642-w.


SARS-CoV-2 continues to infect an ever-expanding number of people, resulting in an increase in the number of deaths globally. With the emergence of new variants, there is a corresponding decrease in the currently available vaccine efficacy, highlighting the need for greater insights into the viral epitope profile for both vaccine design and assessment. In this study, three immunodominant linear B cell epitopes in the SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) were identified by immunoinformatics prediction, and confirmed by ELISA with sera from Macaca fascicularis vaccinated with a SARS-CoV-2 RBD subunit vaccine. Further immunoinformatics analyses of these three epitopes gave rise to a method of linear B cell epitope prediction and selection. B cell epitopes in the spike (S), membrane (M), and envelope (E) proteins were subsequently predicted and confirmed using convalescent sera from COVID-19 infected patients. Immunodominant epitopes were identified in three regions of the S2 domain, one region at the S1/S2 cleavage site and one region at the C-terminus of the M protein. Epitope mapping revealed that most of the amino acid changes found in variants of concern are located within B cell epitopes in the NTD, RBD, and S1/S2 cleavage site. This work provides insights into B cell epitopes of SARS-CoV-2 as well as immunoinformatics methods for B cell epitope prediction, which will improve and enhance SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development against emergent variants.

PMID:34650130 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-021-99642-w