Analysis of antibodies from HCV elite neutralizers identifies genetic determinants of broad neutralization

Timm Weber, Julian Potthoff, Sven Bizu, Maurice Labuhn, Leona Dold, Till Schoofs, Marcel Horning, Meryem S. Ercanoglu, Christoph Kreer, Lutz Gieselmann, Kanika Vanshylla, Bettina Langhans, Hanna Janicki, Luisa J. Ströh, Elena Knops, Dirk Nierhoff, Ulrich Spengler, Rolf Kaiser, Pamela J. Bjorkman, Thomas KreyDorothea Bankwitz, Nico Pfeifer, Thomas Pietschmann, Andrew I. Flyak, Florian Klein*

*Corresponding author for this work


The high genetic diversity of hepatitis C virus (HCV) complicates effective vaccine development. We screened a cohort of 435 HCV-infected individuals and found that 2%–5% demonstrated outstanding HCV-neutralizing activity. From four of these patients, we isolated 310 HCV antibodies, including neutralizing antibodies with exceptional breadth and potency. High neutralizing activity was enabled by the use of the VH1-69 heavy-chain gene segment, somatic mutations within CDRH1, and CDRH2 hydrophobicity. Structural and mutational analyses revealed an important role for mutations replacing the serines at positions 30 and 31, as well as the presence of neutral and hydrophobic residues at the tip of the CDRH3. Based on these characteristics, we computationally created a de novo antibody with a fully synthetic VH1-69 heavy chain that efficiently neutralized multiple HCV genotypes. Our findings provide a deep understanding of the generation of broadly HCV-neutralizing antibodies that can guide the design of effective vaccine candidates.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)341-354.e7
Publication statusPublished - 08.02.2022


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