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Linear B-Cell Epitopes in the Spike and Nucleocapsid Proteins as Markers of SARS-CoV-2 Exposure and Disease Severity
38 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2020More...
Background: Given the unceasing worldwide surge in COVID-19 cases, there is an imperative need to develop highly specific and sensitive serology assays to define exposure to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
Methods: Pooled plasma samples from PCR positive COVID-19 patients were used to identify linear B-cell epitopes from a SARS-CoV-2 peptide library of spike (S), envelope (E), membrane (M), and nucleocapsid (N) structural proteins by peptide-based ELISA. Hit epitopes were further validated with 79 COVID-19 patients with different disease severity status, 12 seasonal human CoV, 20 recovered SARS patients and 22 healthy donors.
Findings: Four immunodominant epitopes, S14P5, S20P2, S21P2 and N4P5, were identified on the S and N viral proteins. IgG responses to all identified epitopes displayed a strong detection profile, with N4P5 achieving the highest level of specificity (100%) and sensitivity (>96%) against SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, the magnitude of IgG responses to S14P5, S21P2 and N4P5 were strongly associated with disease severity.
Interpretation: IgG responses to the peptide epitopes can serve as useful indicators for the degree of immunopathology in COVID-19 patients, and function as higly specific and sensitive sero-immunosurveillance tools for recent or past SARS-CoV-2 infections. The flexibility of these epitopes to be used alone or in combination will allow for the development of improved point-of-care-tests (POCTs).
Funding Statement: Biomedical Research Council (BMRC), the A*ccelerate GAP-funded project (ACCL/19-GAP064-R20H-H) from Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and National Medical Research Council (NMRC) COVID-19 Research fund (COVID19RF-001). ATR is supported by the Singapore International Graduate Award (SINGA), A*STAR.
Declaration of Interests: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Ethics Approval Statement: The study design and protocols for COVID-19, recovered SARS and seasonal hCoV patient cohorts were evaluated by National Healthcare Group (NHG) Domain Specific Review Board (DSRB) and approved under study numbers 2012/00917, 2020/00091 and 2020/00076, respectively. Healthy donor samples were collected under study numbers 2017/2806 and NUS IRB 04-140. Residual serum sample from National Healthy Survey (NHS) collected in 2010 under study number 006/2010 was used as a positive control in peptide-based ELISA (13). Written informed consent was obtained from participants in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki for Human Research.
Keywords: epitopes; SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; patients; biomarkers
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