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biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.03.20.485044


RNA interference is a natural antiviral mechanism that could be harnessed to combat SARS-CoV-2 infection by targeting and destroying the viral genome. We screened lipophilic small-interfering RNA (siRNA) conjugates targeting highly conserved regions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome and identified leads targeting outside of the spike-encoding region capable of achieving [≥]3-log viral reduction. Serial passaging studies demonstrated that a two-siRNA combination prevented development of resistance compared to a single-siRNA approach. A two-siRNA combination delivered intranasally protected Syrian hamsters from weight loss and lung pathology by viral infection upon prophylactic administration but not following onset of infection. Together, the data support potential utility of RNAi as a prophylactic approach to limit SARS-CoV-2 infection that may help combat emergent variants, complement existing interventions, or protect populations where vaccines are less effective. Most importantly, this strategy has implications for developing medicines that may be valuable in protecting against future coronavirus pandemics.

biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.12.12.472269


The recently emerged SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant harbors 37 amino acid substitutions in the spike (S) protein, 15 of which are in the receptor-binding domain (RBD), thereby raising concerns about the effectiveness of available vaccines and antibody therapeutics. Here, we show that the Omicron RBD binds to human ACE2 with enhanced affinity relative to the Wuhan-Hu-1 RBD and acquires binding to mouse ACE2. Severe reductions of plasma neutralizing activity were observed against Omicron compared to the ancestral pseudovirus for vaccinated and convalescent individuals. Most (26 out of 29) receptor-binding motif (RBM)-directed monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) lost in vitro neutralizing activity against Omicron, with only three mAbs, including the ACE2-mimicking S2K146 mAb, retaining unaltered potency. Furthermore, a fraction of broadly neutralizing sarbecovirus mAbs recognizing antigenic sites outside the RBM, including sotrovimab, S2X259 and S2H97, neutralized Omicron. The magnitude of Omicron-mediated immune evasion and the acquisition of binding to mouse ACE2 mark a major SARS-CoV-2 mutational shift. Broadly neutralizing sarbecovirus mAbs recognizing epitopes conserved among SARS-CoV-2 variants and other sarbecoviruses may prove key to controlling the ongoing pandemic and future zoonotic spillovers.