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Emerg Microbes Infect. 2017 May 24;6(5):e37. doi: 10.1038/emi.2017.18.

A novel neutralizing monoclonal antibody targeting the N-terminal domain of the MERS-CoV spike protein.

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School of Laboratory Medicine and Life Science and Key Laboratory of Medical Virology, Wenzhou 325035, China.
Key Laboratory of Medical Virology, National Health and Family Planning Commission, National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, China CDC, Beijing 102206, China.


Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has caused fatal infections, some through hospital-acquired transmission, in affected regions since its emergence in 2012. Although the virus is not pandemic among humans, it poses a great threat to public health due to its zoonotic origin. Thus, both preventative and therapeutic countermeasures are urgently needed. In this study, we discovered a panel of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against MERS-CoV, which mapped to a wide range of regions on the spike (S) protein of the virus. In addition to mAbs with neutralizing epitopes located on the receptor-binding domain, one mAb, 5F9, which binds to the N-terminal domain (NTD) of the MERS-CoV S1 subunit, showed efficient neutralizing activity against the wild-type MERS-CoV strain EMC/2012, with a half maximal inhibitory concentration of 0.2 μg/mL. We concluded that a novel neutralizing epitope for MERS-CoV also resides on the NTD of the S protein, indicating that the NTD might be important during the viral infection process. Our findings have significant implications for further vaccine design and for the development of prophylactic and therapeutic monoclonal immunotherapies against MERS-CoV infection.

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