The alpha/B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant exhibits significantly higher affinity for ACE-2 and requires lower inoculation doses to cause disease in K18-hACE2 mice

  1. Rafael Bayarri-Olmos
  2. Laust Bruun Johnsen
  3. Manja Idorn
  4. Line S Reinert
  5. Anne Rosbjerg
  6. Søren Vang
  7. Cecilie Bo Hansen
  8. Charlotte Helgstrand
  9. Jais Rose Bjelke
  10. Theresa Bak-Thomsen
  11. Soren Paludan
  12. Peter Garred
  13. Mikkel-Ole Skjoedt  Is a corresponding author
  1. Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark
  2. Novo Nordisk A/S, Denmark
  3. Aarhus University, Denmark
  4. Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark

Abstract

The alpha/B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 lineage emerged in autumn 2020 in the United Kingdom and transmitted rapidly until winter 2021 when it was responsible for most new COVID-19 cases in many European countries. The incidence domination was likely due to a fitness advantage that could be driven by the RBD residue change (N501Y), which also emerged independently in other Variants of Concern such as the beta/B.1.351 and gamma/P.1 strains. Here we present a functional characterization of the alpha/B.1.1.7 variant and show an eight-fold affinity increase towards human ACE-2. In accordance with this, transgenic hACE-2 mice showed a faster disease progression and severity after infection with a low dose of B.1.1.7, compared to an early 2020 SARS-CoV-2 isolate. When challenged with sera from convalescent individuals or anti-RBD monoclonal antibodies, the N501Y variant showed a minor, but significant elevated evasion potential of ACE-2/RBD antibody neutralization. The data suggest that the single asparagine to tyrosine substitution remarkable rise in affinity may be responsible for the higher transmission rate and severity of the B.1.1.7 variant.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. We have no restrictions with regards to data availability.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Rafael Bayarri-Olmos

    Laboratory of Molecular Medicine, Department of Clinical Immunology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Laust Bruun Johnsen

    Novo Nordisk A/S, Måløv, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Manja Idorn

    Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, Århus, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Line S Reinert

    Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, Århus, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Anne Rosbjerg

    Recombinant Protein and Antibody Laboratory, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Søren Vang

    Department of Molecular Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. Cecilie Bo Hansen

    Laboratory of Molecular Medicine, Department of Clinical Immunology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  8. Charlotte Helgstrand

    Novo Nordisk A/S, Måløv, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  9. Jais Rose Bjelke

    Novo Nordisk A/S, Måløv, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  10. Theresa Bak-Thomsen

    Novo Nordisk A/S, Måløv, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  11. Soren Paludan

    Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, Århus, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  12. Peter Garred

    Laboratory of Molecular Medicine, Department of Clinical Immunology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  13. Mikkel-Ole Skjoedt

    Laboratory of Molecular Medicine, Department of Clinical Immunology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
    For correspondence
    moskjoedt@sund.ku.dk
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-1306-6482

Funding

Carlsbergfondet (CF20-0045)

  • Rafael Bayarri-Olmos
  • Anne Rosbjerg
  • Peter Garred
  • Mikkel-Ole Skjoedt

Novo Nordisk Fonden (NFF205A0063505)

  • Rafael Bayarri-Olmos
  • Anne Rosbjerg
  • Peter Garred
  • Mikkel-Ole Skjoedt

Novo Nordisk Fonden (NNF20OC0063436)

  • Rafael Bayarri-Olmos
  • Anne Rosbjerg
  • Peter Garred
  • Mikkel-Ole Skjoedt

Novo Nordisk Fonden (NNF20SA0064201)

  • Rafael Bayarri-Olmos
  • Anne Rosbjerg
  • Peter Garred
  • Mikkel-Ole Skjoedt

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Animal experimentation: The Danish Animal Experiments Inspectorate has approved the experimental animal procedures and were carried out in accordance with the Danish Animal Welfare Act for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes. (License ID 2019-15-0201-00090 and 2020-15-0201-00726). All procedures followed the recommendations of the Animal Facilities at the Universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus.

Human subjects: The collection and use of blood samples have been approved by the Regional Ethical Committee of the Capital Region of Denmark (H-20028627) and (H-20079890). The human studies were conducted in agreement with the Helsinki declaration. We have received informed consent to do the examinations included in this study including to publish data.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Kei Sato, The Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo, Japan

Publication history

  1. Received: May 4, 2021
  2. Accepted: November 24, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 25, 2021 (version 1)
  4. Accepted Manuscript updated: November 29, 2021 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record published: December 1, 2021 (version 3)

Copyright

© 2021, Bayarri-Olmos et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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  1. Rafael Bayarri-Olmos
  2. Laust Bruun Johnsen
  3. Manja Idorn
  4. Line S Reinert
  5. Anne Rosbjerg
  6. Søren Vang
  7. Cecilie Bo Hansen
  8. Charlotte Helgstrand
  9. Jais Rose Bjelke
  10. Theresa Bak-Thomsen
  11. Soren Paludan
  12. Peter Garred
  13. Mikkel-Ole Skjoedt
(2021)
The alpha/B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant exhibits significantly higher affinity for ACE-2 and requires lower inoculation doses to cause disease in K18-hACE2 mice
eLife 10:e70002.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.70002
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