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U.S. researchers identify gene in antibodies promising for COVID-19 vaccine design

Washington, US | XINHUA | An analysis of nearly 300 recently identified human SARS-CoV-2 antibodies has uncovered a gene frequently used in antibodies that effectively target the virus which causes COVID-19, according to a new study published Monday in Science magazine.

The results contribute to growing structural insight that could inform successful vaccine development against SARS-CoV-2, said the study.

As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, multiple vaccine candidates have entered clinical trials. Yet, the molecular features that contribute to the most effective antibody response are still being determined.

The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 uses its receptor binding domain (RBD) to bind to the host receptor, ACE2, on human cells. Antibodies that could target RBD and block binding to ACE2 are highly sought, and a number have been discovered, according to the study.

The research team, led by Yuan Meng at the Scripps Research Institute, compiled a list of 294 such RBD-targeting antibodies. By analyzing them, they found that a gene in the IGHV gene family, known as IGHV3-53, is the most frequently used IGHV gene for targeting the RBD of the virus spike protein.

IGHV3-53 antibodies have low mutation rates and potently inhibit the virus, according to the researchers.

By studying the crystal structures of two IGHV3-53 antibodies bound to the RBD, the researchers identified the features that lead them to be so effective at binding and so highly potent, features that make them promising for vaccine design.

This detailed insight into IGHV-53 neutralizing antibodies should facilitate design of vaccine antigens that elicit this type of neutralizing antibody response, said the researchers.

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