mRNA-1273 but not BNT162b2 induces antibodies against polyethylene glycol (PEG) contained in mRNA-based vaccine formulations

Juan Manuel Carreño, Gagandeep Singh, Johnstone Tcheou, Komal Srivastava, Charles Gleason, Hiromi Muramatsu, Parnavi Desai, Judith A. Aberg, Rachel L. Miller, PARIS study group, Norbert Pardi, Viviana Simon, Florian Krammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Two messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines are widely used globally to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Both vaccine formulations contain PEGylated lipids in their composition, in the form of polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol for mRNA-1273, and 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide for BNT162b2. It is known that some PEGylated drugs and products for human use which contain PEG are capable of eliciting immune responses that lead to to detectable PEG-specific antibodies in serum. In this study, we determined if any of the components of mRNA-1273 or BNT162b2 formulations elicited PEG-specific antibody responses in serum by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). We detected an increase in the reactivity to mRNA vaccine formulations in mRNA-1273 but not BNT162b2 vaccinees’ sera in a prime-boost dependent manner. Furthermore, we observed the same pattern of reactivity against irrelevant lipid nanoparticles from an influenza virus mRNA formulation and found that the reactivity of such antibodies correlated well with antibody levels against high and low molecular weight PEG. Using sera from participants selected based on the vaccine-associated side effects experienced after vaccination, including delayed onset, injection site or severe allergic reactions, we found no obvious association between PEG antibodies and adverse reactions. Overall, our data shows a differential induction of anti-PEG antibodies by mRNA-1273 and BNT162b2. The clinical relevance of PEG reactive antibodies induced by administration of the mRNA-1273 vaccine, and the potential interaction of these antibodies with other PEGylated drugs remains to be explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6114-6124
Number of pages11
Issue number42
StatePublished - 6 Oct 2022


  • Antibodies
  • BNT162b2
  • Polyethylene glycol
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • mRNA-1273


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