Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

. 2024 Apr 9;121(15):e2317222121.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.2317222121. Epub 2024 Apr 1. Evidence of antigenic drift in the fusion machinery core of SARS-CoV-2 spike

Timothy J C Tan 1 , Abhishek K Verma 2 , Abby Odle 2 , Ruipeng Lei 3 , David K Meyerholz 4 , Kenneth A Matreyek 5 , Stanley Perlman 2 6 , Lok-Yin Roy Wong 2 7 8 , Nicholas C Wu 1 3 9 10


Antigenic drift of SARS-CoV-2 is typically defined by mutations in the N-terminal domain and receptor binding domain of spike protein. In contrast, whether antigenic drift occurs in the S2 domain remains largely elusive. Here, we perform a deep mutational scanning experiment to identify S2 mutations that affect binding of SARS-CoV-2 spike to three S2 apex public antibodies. Our results indicate that spatially diverse mutations, including D950N and Q954H, which are observed in Delta and Omicron variants, respectively, weaken the binding of spike to these antibodies. Although S2 apex antibodies are known to be nonneutralizing, we show that they confer protection in vivo through Fc-mediated effector functions. Overall, this study indicates that the S2 domain of SARS-CoV-2 spike can undergo antigenic drift, which represents a potential challenge for the development of more universal coronavirus vaccines.

Keywords: S2 domain; SARS-CoV-2; antibody; deep mutational scanning; spike.