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An ultrapotent synthetic nanobody neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 by stabilizing inactive Spike

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Science  05 Nov 2020:
eabe3255
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe3255

Abstract

The SARS-CoV-2 virus enters host cells via an interaction between its Spike protein and the host cell receptor angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). By screening a yeast surface-displayed library of synthetic nanobody sequences, we developed nanobodies that disrupt the interaction between Spike and ACE2. Cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) revealed that one nanobody, Nb6, binds Spike in a fully inactive conformation with its receptor binding domains (RBDs) locked into their inaccessible down-state, incapable of binding ACE2. Affinity maturation and structure-guided design of multivalency yielded a trivalent nanobody, mNb6-tri, with femtomolar affinity for Spike and picomolar neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 infection. mNb6-tri retains function after aerosolization, lyophilization, and heat treatment, which enables aerosol-mediated delivery of this potent neutralizer directly to the airway epithelia.

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