A “Trojan horse” bispecific-antibody strategy for broad protection against ebolaviruses

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Science  21 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6310, pp. 350-354
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag3267

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Treating Ebola with a Trojan horse

The recent major Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa high-lighted the need for effective therapeutics against this and other filoviruses. Neutralizing ebolaviruses with antibodies is a challenge because the viruses bind their entry receptor, NPC1, inside the cell within endosomes rather than on the cell surface. Furthermore, enzymes in endosomes cleave the Ebola virus surface glycoprotein (GP) to reveal its receptor binding site. Wec et al. now report a bispecific antibody strategy targeting all known ebolaviruses that overcomes this problem (see the Perspective by Labrijn and Parren). They coupled an antibody specific for a conserved, surface-exposed epitope of GP to antibodies that recognize either NPC1 or the NPC1 binding site on GP. Treating mice therapeutically with these antibodies allowed them to survive otherwise lethal ebolavirus infection.

Science, this issue p. 350; see also p. 284


There is an urgent need for monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies that broadly protect against Ebola virus and other filoviruses. The conserved, essential interaction between the filovirus glycoprotein, GP, and its entry receptor Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) provides an attractive target for such mAbs but is shielded by multiple mechanisms, including physical sequestration in late endosomes. Here, we describe a bispecific-antibody strategy to target this interaction, in which mAbs specific for NPC1 or the GP receptor–binding site are coupled to a mAb against a conserved, surface-exposed GP epitope. Bispecific antibodies, but not parent mAbs, neutralized all known ebolaviruses by coopting viral particles themselves for endosomal delivery and conferred postexposure protection against multiple ebolaviruses in mice. Such “Trojan horse” bispecific antibodies have potential as broad antifilovirus immunotherapeutics.

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