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Intervirology. 2008;51(3):173-81. doi: 10.1159/000151530. Epub 2008 Aug 25.

Development of human single-chain antibodies against SARS-associated coronavirus.

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  • 1CK Life Sciences International Inc., Hong Kong, SAR, China.


The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), caused by a distinct coronavirus, in 2003 greatly threatened public health in China, Southeast Asia as well as North America. Over 1,000 patients died of the SARS virus, representing 10% of infected people. Like other coronaviruses, the SARS virus also utilizes a surface glycoprotein, namely the spike protein, to infect host cells. The spike protein of SARS virus consists of 1,255 amino acid residues and can be divided into two sub-domains, S1 and S2. The S1 domain mediates the binding of the virus to its receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, which is abundantly distributed on the surface of human lung cells. The S2 domain mediates membrane fusion between the virus and the host cell. Hence two strategies can be used to block the infection of the SARS virus, either by interfering with the binding of the S1 domain to the receptor or by blocking the fusion of the virus with the cell membrane mediated by the S2 domain. Several antibodies against the S1 domain have been generated and all of them are able to neutralize the virus in vitro and in vivo using animal models. Unfortunately, point mutations have been identified in the S1 domain, so that the virus isolated in the future may not be recognized by these antibodies. As no mutation has been found in the S2 domain indicating that this region is more conserved than the S1 domain, it may be a better target for antibody binding. After predicting the immunogenicity of the epitopes of the S2 domain, we chemically synthesized two peptides and also expressed one of them using a recombinant DNA method. We screened a phage displaying library of human single-chain antibodies (ScFv) against the predicted epitopes and obtained a human ScFv which can recognize the SARS virus in vitro.

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