All Publications


  • Potently neutralizing and protective anti-human metapneumovirus antibodies target diverse sites on the fusion glycoprotein. Immunity Rappazzo, C. G., Hsieh, C. L., Rush, S. A., Esterman, E. S., Delgado, T., Geoghegan, J. C., Wec, A. Z., Sakharkar, M., M√°s, V., McLellan, J. S., Walker, L. M. 2022

    Abstract

    Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a leading cause of acute lower respiratory tract infections in high-risk populations, yet there are no vaccines or anti-viral therapies approved for the prevention or treatment of hMPV-associated disease. Here, we used a high-throughput single-cell technology to interrogate memory B cell responses to the hMPV fusion (F) glycoprotein in young adult and elderly donors. Across all donors, the neutralizing antibody response was primarily directed to epitopes expressed on both pre- and post-fusion F conformations. However, we identified rare, highly potent broadly neutralizing antibodies that recognize pre-fusion-specific epitopes and structurally characterized an antibody that targets a site of vulnerability at the pre-fusion F trimer apex. Additionally, monotherapy with neutralizing antibodies targeting three distinct antigenic sites provided robust protection against lower respiratory tract infection in a small animal model. This study provides promising monoclonal antibody candidates for passive immunoprophylaxis and informs the rational design of hMPV vaccine immunogens.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.immuni.2022.07.003

    View details for PubMedID 35944529

  • Evolution of DNA packaging in gene transfer agents VIRUS EVOLUTION Esterman, E. S., Wolf, Y., Kogay, R., Koonin, E., Zhaxybayeva, O. 2021; 7 (1): veab015

    Abstract

    Gene transfer agents (GTAs) are virus-like particles encoded and produced by many bacteria and archaea. Unlike viruses, GTAs package fragments of the host genome instead of the genes that encode the components of the GTA itself. As a result of this non-specific DNA packaging, GTAs can transfer genes within bacterial and archaeal communities. GTAs clearly evolved from viruses and are thought to have been maintained in prokaryotic genomes due to the advantages associated with their DNA transfer capacity. The most-studied GTA is produced by the alphaproteobacterium Rhodobacter capsulatus (RcGTA), which packages random portions of the host genome at a lower DNA density than usually observed in tailed bacterial viruses. How the DNA packaging properties of RcGTA evolved from those of the ancestral virus remains unknown. To address this question, we reconstructed the evolutionary history of the large subunit of the terminase (TerL), a highly conserved enzyme used by viruses and GTAs to package DNA. We found that RcGTA-like TerLs grouped within viruses that employ the headful packaging strategy. Because distinct mechanisms of viral DNA packaging correspond to differences in the TerL amino acid sequence, our finding suggests that RcGTA evolved from a headful packaging virus. Headful packaging is the least sequence-specific mode of DNA packaging, which would facilitate the switch from packaging of the viral genome to packaging random pieces of the host genome during GTA evolution.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/ve/veab015

    View details for Web of Science ID 000702030600013

    View details for PubMedID 33732503

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7947584

  • Prolonged evolution of the human B cell response to SARS-CoV-2 infection SCIENCE IMMUNOLOGY Sakharkar, M., Rappazzo, C., Wieland-Alter, W. F., Hsieh, C., Wrapp, D., Esterman, E. S., Kaku, C., Wec, A. Z., Geoghegan, J. C., McLellan, J. S., Connor, R., Wright, P. F., Walker, L. M. 2021; 6 (56)

    Abstract

    A comprehensive understanding of the kinetics and evolution of the human B cell response to SARS-CoV-2 infection will facilitate the development of next-generation vaccines and therapies. Here, we longitudinally profiled this response in mild and severe COVID-19 patients over a period of five months. Serum neutralizing antibody (nAb) responses waned rapidly but spike (S)-specific IgG+ memory B cells (MBCs) remained stable or increased over time. Analysis of 1,213 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) isolated from S-specific MBCs revealed a primarily de novo response that displayed increased somatic hypermutation, binding affinity, and neutralization potency over time, providing evidence for prolonged antibody affinity maturation. B cell immunodominance hierarchies were similar across donor repertoires and remained relatively stable as the immune response progressed. Cross-reactive B cell populations, likely re-called from prior endemic beta-coronavirus exposures, comprised a small but stable fraction of the repertoires and did not contribute to the neutralizing response. The neutralizing antibody response was dominated by public clonotypes that displayed significantly reduced activity against SARS-CoV-2 variants emerging in Brazil and South Africa that harbor mutations at positions 501, 484 and 417 in the S protein. Overall, the results provide insight into the dynamics, durability, and functional properties of the human B cell response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and have implications for the design of immunogens that preferentially stimulate protective B cell responses.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/sciimmunol.abg6916

    View details for Web of Science ID 000634504500008

    View details for PubMedID 33622975

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8128290