To combat the HIV epidemic and emerging threats such as SARS-CoV-2, immunization strategies are needed that elicit protection at mucosal portals of pathogen entry. Immunization directly through airway surfaces is effective in driving mucosal immunity, but poor vaccine uptake across the mucus and epithelial lining is a limitation. The major blood protein albumin is constitutively transcytosed bidirectionally across the airway epithelium through interactions with neonatal Fc receptors (FcRn). Exploiting this biology, here, we demonstrate a strategy of "albumin hitchhiking" to promote mucosal immunity using an intranasal vaccine consisting of protein immunogens modified with an amphiphilic albumin-binding polymer-lipid tail, forming amph-proteins. Amph-proteins persisted in the nasal mucosa of mice and nonhuman primates and exhibited increased uptake into the tissue in an FcRn-dependent manner, leading to enhanced germinal center responses in nasal-associated lymphoid tissue. Intranasal immunization with amph-conjugated HIV Env gp120 or SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) proteins elicited 100- to 1000-fold higher antigen-specific IgG and IgA titers in the serum, upper and lower respiratory mucosa, and distal genitourinary mucosae of mice compared to unmodified protein. Amph-RBD immunization induced high titers of SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies in serum, nasal washes, and bronchoalveolar lavage. Furthermore, intranasal amph-protein immunization in rhesus macaques elicited 10-fold higher antigen-specific IgG and IgA responses in the serum and nasal mucosa compared to unmodified protein, supporting the translational potential of this approach. These results suggest that using amph-protein vaccines to deliver antigen across mucosal epithelia is a promising strategy to promote mucosal immunity against HIV, SARS-CoV-2, and other infectious diseases.
Subject(s)COVID-19 , HIV Infections , Administration, Intranasal , Albumins , Animals , Antibodies, Viral , COVID-19/prevention & control , HIV Infections/prevention & control , Immunity, Mucosal , Immunoglobulin A , Immunoglobulin G , Lipids , Macaca mulatta , Mice , Mice, Inbred BALB C , SARS-CoV-2 , Vaccination
Saponins are potent and safe vaccine adjuvants, but their mechanisms of action remain incompletely understood. Here, we explored the properties of several saponin formulations, including immune-stimulatory complexes (ISCOMs) formed by the self-assembly of saponin and phospholipids in the absence or presence of the Toll-like receptor 4 agonist monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA). We found that MPLA self-assembles with saponins to form particles physically resembling ISCOMs, which we termed saponin/MPLA nanoparticles (SMNP). Saponin-containing adjuvants exhibited distinctive mechanisms of action, altering lymph flow in a mast celldependent manner and promoting antigen entry into draining lymph nodes. SMNP was particularly effective, exhibiting even greater potency than the compositionally related adjuvant AS01B in mice, and primed robust germinal center B cell, TFH, and HIV tier 2 neutralizing antibodies in nonhuman primates. Together, these findings shed new light on mechanisms by which saponin adjuvants act to promote the immune response and suggest that SMNP may be a promising adjuvant in the setting of HIV, SARS-CoV-2, and other pathogens.
Subject(s)Adaptive Immunity/drug effects , Adjuvants, Immunologic/pharmacology , Lymph/drug effects , Saponins/pharmacology , Toll-Like Receptors/agonists , Animals , B-Lymphocytes/immunology , CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes/immunology , Female , Lymph/physiology , Macaca mulatta , Mice , Mice, Inbred BALB C , Mice, Inbred C57BL , Nanoparticles , Rats , Rats, Wistar
There is a need for additional rapidly scalable, low-cost vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to achieve global vaccination. Aluminum hydroxide (alum) adjuvant is the most widely available vaccine adjuvant but elicits modest humoral responses. We hypothesized that phosphate-mediated coanchoring of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 together with molecular adjuvants on alum particles could potentiate humoral immunity by promoting extended vaccine kinetics and codelivery of vaccine components to lymph nodes. Modification of RBD immunogens with phosphoserine (pSer) peptides enabled efficient alum binding and slowed antigen clearance, leading to notable increases in germinal center responses and neutralizing antibody titers in mice. Adding phosphate-containing CpG or saponin adjuvants to pSer-RBD:alum immunizations synergistically enhanced vaccine immunogenicity in mice and rhesus macaques, inducing neutralizing responses against SARS-CoV-2 variants. Thus, phosphate-mediated coanchoring of RBD and molecular adjuvants to alum is an effective strategy to enhance the efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 subunit vaccines.