Discovery of Marburg virus neutralizing antibodies from virus-naïve human antibody repertoires using large-scale structural predictions

Nina G. Bozhanova, Amandeep K. Sangha, Alexander M. Sevy, Pavlo Gilchuk, Kai Huang, Rachel S. Nargi, Joseph X. Reidy, Andrew Trivette, Robert H. Carnahan, Alexander Bukreyev, James E. Crowe, Jens Meiler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Marburg virus (MARV) disease is lethal, with fatality rates up to 90%. Neutralizing antibodies (Abs) are promising drug candidates to prevent or treat the disease. Current efforts are focused in part on vaccine development to induce such MARV-neutralizing Abs. We analyzed the antibody repertoire from healthy unexposed and previously MARV-infected individuals to assess if naïve repertoires contain suitable precursor antibodies that could become neutralizing with a limited set of somatic mutations. We computationally searched the human Ab variable gene repertoire for predicted structural homologs of the neutralizing Ab MR78 that is specific to the receptor binding site (RBS) of MARV glycoprotein (GP). Eight Ab heavy-chain complementarity determining region 3 (HCDR3) loops from MARV-naïve individuals and one from a previously MARV-infected individual were selected for testing as HCDR3 loop chimeras on the MR78 Ab framework. Three of these chimerized antibodies bound to MARV GP. We then tested a fulllength native Ab heavy chain encoding the same 17-residue-long HCDR3 loop that bound to the MARV GP the best among the chimeric Abs tested. Despite only 57% amino acid sequence identity, the Ab from a MARV-naïve donor recognized MARV GP and possessed neutralizing activity against the virus. Crystallization of both chimeric and full-length native heavy chain-containing Abs provided structural insights into the mechanism of binding for these types of Abs. Our work suggests that the MARV GP RBS is a promising candidate for epitope-focused vaccine design to induce neutralizing Abs against MARV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31142-31148
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 8 2020


  • Computational antibody function prediction
  • Marburg virus
  • Neutralizing antibodies
  • P3SM approach
  • Rosetta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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