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EMBO Rep ; 23(10): e54322, 2022 10 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2002704


The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants has exacerbated the COVID-19 global health crisis. Thus far, all variants carry mutations in the spike glycoprotein, which is a critical determinant of viral transmission being responsible for attachment, receptor engagement and membrane fusion, and an important target of immunity. Variants frequently bear truncations of flexible loops in the N-terminal domain (NTD) of spike; the functional importance of these modifications has remained poorly characterised. We demonstrate that NTD deletions are important for efficient entry by the Alpha and Omicron variants and that this correlates with spike stability. Phylogenetic analysis reveals extensive NTD loop length polymorphisms across the sarbecoviruses, setting an evolutionary precedent for loop remodelling. Guided by these analyses, we demonstrate that variations in NTD loop length, alone, are sufficient to modulate virus entry. We propose that variations in NTD loop length act to fine-tune spike; this may provide a mechanism for SARS-CoV-2 to navigate a complex selection landscape encompassing optimisation of essential functionality, immune-driven antigenic variation and ongoing adaptation to a new host.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/genetics , Humans , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
Nat Microbiol ; 7(8): 1161-1179, 2022 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1921616


Vaccines based on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 are a cornerstone of the public health response to COVID-19. The emergence of hypermutated, increasingly transmissible variants of concern (VOCs) threaten this strategy. Omicron (B.1.1.529), the fifth VOC to be described, harbours multiple amino acid mutations in spike, half of which lie within the receptor-binding domain. Here we demonstrate substantial evasion of neutralization by Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants in vitro using sera from individuals vaccinated with ChAdOx1, BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273. These data were mirrored by a substantial reduction in real-world vaccine effectiveness that was partially restored by booster vaccination. The Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.2 did not induce cell syncytia in vitro and favoured a TMPRSS2-independent endosomal entry pathway, these phenotypes mapping to distinct regions of the spike protein. Impaired cell fusion was determined by the receptor-binding domain, while endosomal entry mapped to the S2 domain. Such marked changes in antigenicity and replicative biology may underlie the rapid global spread and altered pathogenicity of the Omicron variant.

COVID-19 , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus , Antibodies, Viral , BNT162 Vaccine , Humans , Membrane Glycoproteins/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Viral Envelope Proteins/metabolism , Virus Internalization
J Gen Virol ; 102(1)2021 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-910292


Great strides have been made in understanding and treating hepatitis C virus (HCV) thanks to the development of various experimental systems including cell-culture-proficient HCV, the HCV pseudoparticle system and soluble envelope glycoproteins. The HCV pseudoparticle (HCVpp) system is a platform used extensively in studies of cell entry, screening of novel entry inhibitors, assessing the phenotypes of clinically observed E1 and E2 glycoproteins and, most pertinently, in characterizing neutralizing antibody breadth induced upon vaccination and natural infection in patients. Nonetheless, some patient-derived clones produce pseudoparticles that are either non-infectious or exhibit infectivity too low for meaningful phenotyping. The mechanisms governing whether any particular clone produces infectious pseudoparticles are poorly understood. Here we show that endogenous expression of CD81, an HCV receptor and a cognate-binding partner of E2, in producer HEK 293T cells is detrimental to the infectivity of recovered HCVpp for most strains. Many HCVpp clones exhibited increased infectivity or had their infectivity rescued when they were produced in 293T cells CRISPR/Cas9 engineered to ablate CD81 expression (293TCD81KO). Clones made in 293TCD81KO cells were antigenically very similar to their matched counterparts made parental cells and appear to honour the accepted HCV entry pathway. Deletion of CD81 did not appreciably increase the recovered titres of soluble E2 (sE2). However, we did, unexpectedly, find that monomeric sE2 made in 293T cells and Freestyle 293-F (293-F) cells exhibit important differences. We found that 293-F-produced sE2 harbours mostly complex-type glycans whilst 293T-produced sE2 displays a heterogeneous mixture of both complex-type glycans and high-mannose or hybrid-type glycans. Moreover, sE2 produced in 293T cells is antigenically superior; exhibiting increased binding to conformational antibodies and the large extracellular loop of CD81. In summary, this work describes an optimal cell line for the production of HCVpp and reveals that sE2 made in 293T and 293-F cells are not antigenic equals. Our findings have implications for functional studies of E1E2 and the production of candidate immunogens.

Hepacivirus/physiology , Viral Envelope Proteins/metabolism , Antibody Affinity , Gene Knockdown Techniques , HEK293 Cells , Hepacivirus/immunology , Hepatitis C/virology , Hepatitis C Antibodies/immunology , Hepatitis C Antigens/immunology , Hepatitis C Antigens/metabolism , Humans , Mannose/chemistry , Polysaccharides/chemistry , Protein Binding , Receptors, Virus/genetics , Receptors, Virus/metabolism , Tetraspanin 28/genetics , Tetraspanin 28/metabolism , Viral Envelope Proteins/chemistry , Viral Envelope Proteins/immunology