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Point mutations in SARS-CoV-2 variants induce long-range dynamical perturbations in neutralizing antibodies


Monoclonal antibodies are emerging as a viable treatment for the coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19). However, newly evolved variants of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can reduce the efficacy of currently available antibodies and can diminish vaccine-induced immunity. Here, we demonstrate that the microscopic dynamics of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies can be profoundly modified by the mutations present in the spike proteins of the SARS-COV-2 variants currently circulating in the world population. The dynamical perturbations within the antibody structure, which alter the thermodynamics of antigen recognition, are diverse and can depend both on the nature of the antibody and on the spatial location of the spike mutation. The correlation between the motion of the antibody and that of the spike receptor binding domain (RBD) can also be changed, modulating binding affinity. Using protein-graph-connectivity networks, we delineated the mutant-induced modifications in the information-flow along allosteric pathway throughout the antibody. Changes in the collective dynamics were spatially distributed both locally and across long-range distances within the antibody. On the receptor side, we identified an anchor-like structural element that prevents the detachment of the antibodies; individual mutations there can significantly affect the antibody binding propensity. Our study provides insight into how virus neutralization by monoclonal antibodies can be impacted by local mutations in the epitope via a change in dynamics. This realization adds a new layer of sophistication to the efforts for rational design of monoclonal antibodies against new variants of SARS-CoV2, taking the allostery in the antibody into consideration.

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