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Cell ; 182(3): 722-733.e11, 2020 08 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-628738


Vaccines are urgently needed to control the ongoing pandemic COVID-19 and previously emerging MERS/SARS caused by coronavirus (CoV) infections. The CoV spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) is an attractive vaccine target but is undermined by limited immunogenicity. We describe a dimeric form of MERS-CoV RBD that overcomes this limitation. The RBD-dimer significantly increased neutralizing antibody (NAb) titers compared to conventional monomeric form and protected mice against MERS-CoV infection. Crystal structure showed RBD-dimer fully exposed dual receptor-binding motifs, the major target for NAbs. Structure-guided design further yielded a stable version of RBD-dimer as a tandem repeat single-chain (RBD-sc-dimer) which retained the vaccine potency. We generalized this strategy to design vaccines against COVID-19 and SARS, achieving 10- to 100-fold enhancement of NAb titers. RBD-sc-dimers in pilot scale production yielded high yields, supporting their scalability for further clinical development. The framework of immunogen design can be universally applied to other beta-CoV vaccines to counter emerging threats.

Betacoronavirus/immunology , Coronavirus Infections/prevention & control , Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus/immunology , Pandemics/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/prevention & control , SARS Virus/immunology , Universal Design , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , Animals , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Antibodies, Viral/immunology , Betacoronavirus/chemistry , COVID-19 , COVID-19 Vaccines , Cell Line, Tumor , Chlorocebus aethiops , Coronavirus Infections/virology , HEK293 Cells , Humans , Mice , Mice, Inbred BALB C , Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus/chemistry , Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A/genetics , Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A/metabolism , Pneumonia, Viral/virology , Protein Binding , Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs/immunology , Receptors, Virus/metabolism , SARS Virus/chemistry , SARS-CoV-2 , Sf9 Cells , Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms , Spodoptera , Transfection , Vaccination/methods , Vero Cells , Viral Vaccines