Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Article
  • Published:

Imprinting of serum neutralizing antibodies by Wuhan-1 mRNA vaccines

We are providing an unedited version of this manuscript to give early access to its findings. Before final publication, the manuscript will undergo further editing. Please note there may be errors present which affect the content, and all legal disclaimers apply.


Immune imprinting is a phenomenon in which prior antigenic experiences influence responses to subsequent infection or vaccination1,2. The effects of immune imprinting on serum antibody responses after boosting with variant-matched SARS-CoV-2 vaccines remain uncertain. Here, we characterized the serum antibody responses after mRNA vaccine boosting of mice and human clinical trial participants. In mice, a single dose of a preclinical version of mRNA-1273 vaccine encoding Wuhan-1 spike minimally imprinted serum responses elicited by Omicron boosters, enabling generation of type-specific antibodies. However, imprinting was observed in mice receiving an Omicron booster after two priming doses of mRNA-1273, an effect that was mitigated by a second booster dose of Omicron vaccine. In both SARS-CoV-2 infected or uninfected humans who received two Omicron-matched boosters after two or more doses of the prototype mRNA-1273 vaccine, spike-binding and neutralizing serum antibodies cross-reacted with Omicron variants as well as more distantly related sarbecoviruses. Because serum neutralizing responses against Omicron strains and other sarbecoviruses were abrogated after pre-clearing with Wuhan-1 spike protein, antibodies induced by XBB.1.5 boosting in humans focus on conserved epitopes targeted by the antecedent mRNA-1273 primary series. Thus, the antibody response to Omicron-based boosters in humans is imprinted by immunizations with historical mRNA-1273 vaccines, but this outcome may be beneficial as it drives expansion of cross-neutralizing antibodies that inhibit infection of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants and distantly related sarbecoviruses.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael S. Diamond.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Liang, CY., Raju, S., Liu, Z. et al. Imprinting of serum neutralizing antibodies by Wuhan-1 mRNA vaccines. Nature (2024).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing