Antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) is a mechanism by which viruses, such as dengue, HIV and Ebola, gain entry into some target cells through the use of host antiviral humoral immune responses. Here, we studied the ability of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) to use ADE mechanisms to enhance its infectivity towards cells of the hematopoietic lineage.
We found that heat-inactivated immune serum from rodents vaccinated with recombinant native full-length Spike protein trimers triggered infection of human immune cells (monocytic and B cell lines) by SARS-CoV Spike pseudotyped particle (SARS-CoVpp). The occurrence of antibody-mediated infection of human Raji B cells was further investigated by using live SARS-CoV. Similarly to results obtained with the SARS-CoVpp, only anti-SARS-CoV Spike serum, but not mock immune-serum, induced a massive increase of SARS-CoV viral genes (ORF1b and Nucleocapsid) and viral proteins (Membrane and Nucleocapsid) in Raji B cells. As revealed by immunostaining, only a relatively low, however significant percentage of the Raji cells get infected by antibody-mediated infection and did not allow direct assessment of productive replication by conventional cytopathic assays and TCID50 titration.
Taken together, our data suggested that SARS-CoV is able to enter human immune cells via an antibody-mediated pathway and immunological consequences of such infection are under investigation (productive replication, cytokines secretion profile and cell death etc). Our data raise reasonable concerns regarding the use of SARS-CoV vaccine in humans and pave the way to further studies focusing on the role of immune-mediated infection phenomenon during SARS pathogenesis.