Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 30712865
Cell 2019 Feb;176(5):1026-1039.e15
Recent outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome, along with the threat of a future coronavirus-mediated pandemic, underscore the importance of finding ways to combat these viruses. The trimeric spike transmembrane glycoprotein S mediates entry into host cells and is the major target of neutralizing antibodies. To understand the humoral immune response elicited upon natural infections with coronaviruses, we structurally characterized the SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV S glycoproteins in complex with neutralizing antibodies isolated from human survivors. Although the two antibodies studied blocked attachment to the host cell receptor, only the anti-SARS-CoV S antibody triggered fusogenic conformational changes via receptor functional mimicry. These results provide a structural framework for understanding coronavirus neutralization by human antibodies and shed light on activation of coronavirus membrane fusion, which takes place through a receptor-driven ratcheting mechanism.