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Immuno Informatic Analysis of B-Cell Epitope Changes in SARS-Cov-2 Variants with Dominant S-Protein Mutations

Author(s): Xianlin Yuan, Liangping Li

Background Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV)-2 has been transmitted worldwide and resulted in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic more than one year. The Spike protein (S protein) on the virus surface has shown several variants, which may influence viral antigenicity and vaccine efficacy. Methods: we used bioinformatics tools to analyze the B-cell epitopes of the prototype S protein and its nine common variants.

Results Twelve potentially linear and 53 discontinuous epitopes of B-cells were predicted from the prototype S protein. By comparing the epitope alterations between the prototype S protein and its variants, we found that the B-cell epitopes of these 11 variants had significantly different alterations. The D614G variant impacted the potential epitope only with moderately increased antigenicity, whereas the epitopes and antigenicity of some new dominant variants (e.g., E484k, N501Y) changed greatly.

Conclusion These results suggest that currently developed vaccines should be valid for SARS-CoV-2 infections with few epitope alterations, but there is a risk of reducing vaccine reactivity for variants with multiple altered epitopes and antigenicity. This study provides a rapid forecasting method for SARS-CoV-2 S protein eptitope changes and for taking precautions against the probable appearance of antigen escape induced by genetic variations of SARS-CoV-2.

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