Afucosylated IgG characterizes enveloped viral responses and correlates with COVID-19 severity

28 Dec, 2020


IgG antibodies are crucial for protection against invading pathogens. A highly conserved N-linked glycan within the IgG-Fc tail, essential for IgG function, shows variable composition in humans. Afucosylated IgG variants are already used in anti-cancer therapeutic antibodies for their elevated activity through Fc receptors (FcγRIIIa). Here, we report that afucosylated IgG (~6% of total IgG in humans) are specifically formed against enveloped viruses but generally not against other antigens. This mediates stronger FcγRIIIa responses, but also amplifies brewing cytokine storms and immune-mediated pathologies. Critically ill COVID-19 patients, but not those with mild symptoms, had high levels of afucosylated IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, amplifying pro-inflammatory cytokine release and acute phase responses. Thus, antibody glycosylation plays a critical role in immune responses to enveloped viruses, including COVID-19.

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