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Immunoinformatic approach to assess SARS-CoV-2 protein S epitopes recognised by the most frequent MHC-I alleles in the Brazilian population


Aims Brazil is nowadays one of the epicentres of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic and new therapies are needed to face it. In the context of specific immune response against the virus, a correlation between Major Histocompatibility Complex Class I (MHC-I) and the severity of the disease in patients with COVID-19 has been suggested. Aiming at better understanding the biology of the infection and the immune response against the virus in the Brazilian population, we analysed SARS-CoV-2 protein S peptides in order to identify epitopes able to elicit an immune response mediated by the most frequent MHC-I alleles using in silico methods.

Methods Our analyses consisted in searching for the most frequent Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA)-A, HLA-B and HLA-C alleles in the Brazilian population, excluding the genetic isolates; then, we performed: molecular modelling for unsolved structures, MHC-I binding affinity and antigenicity prediction, peptide docking and molecular dynamics of the best fitted MHC-I/protein S complexes.

Results We identified 24 immunogenic epitopes in the SARS-CoV-2 protein S that could interact with 17 different MHC-I alleles (namely, HLA-A*01:01; HLA-A*02:01; HLA-A*11:01; HLA-A*24:02; HLA-A*68:01; HLA-A*23:01; HLA-A*26:01; HLA-A*30:02; HLA-A*31:01; HLA-B*07:02; HLA-B*51:01; HLA-B*35:01; HLA-B*44:02; HLA-B*35:03; HLA-C*05:01; HLA-C*07:01 and HLA-C*15:02) in the Brazilian population.

Conclusions Being aware of the intrinsic limitations of in silico analysis (mainly the differences between the real and the Protein Data Bank (PDB) structure; and accuracy of the methods for simulate proteasome cleavage), we identified 24 epitopes able to interact with 17 MHC-I more frequent alleles in the Brazilian population that could be useful for the development of strategic methods for vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.

  • immunogenetics
  • computers
  • molecular
  • HLA antigens
  • viruses

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Raw data generated in this study may be requested by sending an email to

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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