Several studies reported the detection of autoantibodies in COVID-19 patients significantly correlating with the disease outcome. It has been suggested that the immune response induced to fight against SARS-CoV-2 may cross-react with human proteins sharing epitope sequences with viral antigens. Indeed, SARS-CoV-2 protein-derived peptide sequences have been identified in several human proteins, which may have impact on the ongoing vaccination campaigns. The goal of the study was a comprehensive analysis of the epitope-specific autoantibody responses in COVID-19 patients with different disease outcomes. Moreover, considering the peptide motifs shared between the vaccine candidate Spike protein and human proteins, epitope recognition in vaccinated individuals was investigated.
With the help of high-density Autoimmune Human Epitope Microarrays, the profiling of epitope-specific autoantibody responses of SARS-CoV-2 negative individuals and COVID-19 patients with mild versus life-threatening disease progression revealed heterogeneous epitope reactivity patterns between study groups with far stronger autoantibody responses in severely ill subjects. Indeed, we discovered several IgG and/or IgA-specific autoantibody reactivities, which were associated with severe COVID-19 disease. Our cross-reactivity study on antibody responses to linear epitopes shared between SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and human proteins in COVID-19-vaccinated individuals uncovered only weak antibody reactivities against few epitopes.
About the presenter:
Dr. Kirsten Heiss received her PhD in infectious diseases from the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg in 2006 working on the malaria-causing agent Plasmodium. Further Postdoc studies at the Institute of Immunology at University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf enabled her to combine infections with immunology. Back in Heidelberg in 2009, working as scientist at the Center for Infectious Diseases at the University Hospital Heidelberg, her research interests focused on vaccine development and the identification of novel targets for intervention strategies against malaria. In 2018, she joined the R&D unit of PEPperPRINT GmbH and is responsible for the discovery of novel antibody-mediated biomarkers in the field of autoimmune und infectious diseases.