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1.
Nat Commun ; 14(1): 3500, 2023 06 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20236856

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 exhibit reduced lung cell infection relative to previously circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, which may account for their reduced pathogenicity. However, it is unclear whether lung cell infection by BA.5, which displaced these variants, remains attenuated. Here, we show that the spike (S) protein of BA.5 exhibits increased cleavage at the S1/S2 site and drives cell-cell fusion and lung cell entry with higher efficiency than its counterparts from BA.1 and BA.2. Increased lung cell entry depends on mutation H69Δ/V70Δ and is associated with efficient replication of BA.5 in cultured lung cells. Further, BA.5 replicates in the lungs of female Balb/c mice and the nasal cavity of female ferrets with much higher efficiency than BA.1. These results suggest that BA.5 has acquired the ability to efficiently infect lung cells, a prerequisite for causing severe disease, suggesting that evolution of Omicron subvariants can result in partial loss of attenuation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Animals , Female , Mice , Ferrets , SARS-CoV-2 , Mice, Inbred BALB C , Lung
2.
Nat Commun ; 14(1): 816, 2023 02 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2239935

ABSTRACT

Combining optimized spike (S) protein-encoding mRNA vaccines to target multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants could improve control of the COVID-19 pandemic. We compare monovalent and bivalent mRNA vaccines encoding B.1.351 (Beta) and/or B.1.617.2 (Delta) SARS-CoV-2 S-protein in a transgenic mouse and a Wistar rat model. The blended low-dose bivalent mRNA vaccine contains half the mRNA of each respective monovalent vaccine, but induces comparable neutralizing antibody titres, enrichment of lung-resident memory CD8+ T cells, antigen-specific CD4+ and CD8+ responses, and protects transgenic female mice from SARS-CoV-2 lethality. The bivalent mRNA vaccine significantly reduces viral replication in both Beta- and Delta-challenged mice. Sera from bivalent mRNA vaccine immunized female Wistar rats also contain neutralizing antibodies against the B.1.1.529 (Omicron BA.1 and BA.5) variants. These data suggest that low-dose and fit-for-purpose multivalent mRNA vaccines encoding distinct S-proteins are feasible approaches for extending the coverage of vaccines for emerging and co-circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 Vaccines , COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Female , Mice , Rats , Antibodies, Neutralizing , Antibodies, Viral , CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology , Mice, Transgenic , Models, Animal , mRNA Vaccines/immunology , Rats, Wistar , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Vaccines, Combined/immunology
3.
Vaccines (Basel) ; 11(2)2023 Jan 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2225797

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron and its subvariants (BA.2, BA.4, BA.5) represented the most commonly circulating variants of concern (VOC) in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in 2022. Despite high vaccination rates with approved SARS-CoV-2 vaccines encoding the ancestral spike (S) protein, these Omicron subvariants have collectively resulted in increased viral transmission and disease incidence. This necessitates the development and characterization of vaccines incorporating later emerging S proteins to enhance protection against VOC. In this context, bivalent vaccine formulations may induce broad protection against VOC and potential future SARS-CoV-2 variants. Here, we report preclinical data for a lipid nanoparticle (LNP)-formulated RNActive® N1-methylpseudouridine (N1mΨ) modified mRNA vaccine (CV0501) based on our second-generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccine CV2CoV, encoding the S protein of Omicron BA.1. The immunogenicity of CV0501, alone or in combination with a corresponding vaccine encoding the ancestral S protein (ancestral N1mΨ), was first measured in dose-response and booster immunization studies performed in Wistar rats. Both monovalent CV0501 and bivalent CV0501/ancestral N1mΨ immunization induced robust neutralizing antibody titers against the BA.1, BA.2 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, in addition to other SARS-CoV-2 variants in a booster immunization study. The protective efficacy of monovalent CV0501 against live SARS-CoV-2 BA.2 infection was then assessed in hamsters. Monovalent CV0501 significantly reduced SARS-CoV-2 BA.2 viral loads in the airways, demonstrating protection induced by CV0501 vaccination. CV0501 has now advanced into human Phase 1 clinical trials (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05477186).

4.
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 5929, 2022 10 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2062208

ABSTRACT

Variant of concern (VOC) Omicron-BA.1 has achieved global predominance in early 2022. Therefore, surveillance and comprehensive characterization of Omicron-BA.1 in advanced primary cell culture systems and animal models are urgently needed. Here, we characterize Omicron-BA.1 and recombinant Omicron-BA.1 spike gene mutants in comparison with VOC Delta in well-differentiated primary human nasal and bronchial epithelial cells in vitro, followed by in vivo fitness characterization in hamsters, ferrets and hACE2-expressing mice, and immunized hACE2-mice. We demonstrate a spike-mediated enhancement of early replication of Omicron-BA.1 in nasal epithelial cultures, but limited replication in bronchial epithelial cultures. In hamsters, Delta shows dominance over Omicron-BA.1, and in ferrets Omicron-BA.1 infection is abortive. In hACE2-knock-in mice, Delta and a Delta spike clone also show dominance over Omicron-BA.1 and an Omicron-BA.1 spike clone, respectively. Interestingly, in naïve K18-hACE2 mice, we observe Delta spike-mediated increased replication and pathogenicity and Omicron-BA.1 spike-mediated reduced replication and pathogenicity, suggesting that the spike gene is a major determinant of replication and pathogenicity. Finally, the Omicron-BA.1 spike clone is less well-controlled by mRNA-vaccination in K18-hACE2-mice and becomes more competitive compared to the progenitor and Delta spike clones, suggesting that spike gene-mediated immune evasion is another important factor that led to Omicron-BA.1 dominance.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Cricetinae , Ferrets , Humans , Melphalan , Mice , Phenotype , RNA, Messenger , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , gamma-Globulins
5.
Nature ; 602(7896): 307-313, 2022 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1585832

ABSTRACT

Emerging variants of concern (VOCs) are driving the COVID-19 pandemic1,2. Experimental assessments of replication and transmission of major VOCs and progenitors are needed to understand the mechanisms of replication and transmission of VOCs3. Here we show that the spike protein (S) from Alpha (also known as B.1.1.7) and Beta (B.1.351) VOCs had a greater affinity towards the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor than that of the progenitor variant S(D614G) in vitro. Progenitor variant virus expressing S(D614G) (wt-S614G) and the Alpha variant showed similar replication kinetics in human nasal airway epithelial cultures, whereas the Beta variant was outcompeted by both. In vivo, competition experiments showed a clear fitness advantage of Alpha over wt-S614G in ferrets and two mouse models-the substitutions in S were major drivers of the fitness advantage. In hamsters, which support high viral replication levels, Alpha and wt-S614G showed similar fitness. By contrast, Beta was outcompeted by Alpha and wt-S614G in hamsters and in mice expressing human ACE2. Our study highlights the importance of using multiple models to characterize fitness of VOCs and demonstrates that Alpha is adapted for replication in the upper respiratory tract and shows enhanced transmission in vivo in restrictive models, whereas Beta does not overcome Alpha or wt-S614G in naive animals.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/transmission , COVID-19/virology , Mutation , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Virus Replication , Amino Acid Substitution , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , Animals , Animals, Laboratory/virology , COVID-19/veterinary , Cricetinae , Disease Models, Animal , Epithelial Cells/virology , Female , Ferrets/virology , Humans , Male , Mesocricetus/virology , Mice , Mice, Transgenic , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/growth & development , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Virulence/genetics
6.
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 4048, 2021 06 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1290662

ABSTRACT

The ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic necessitates the fast development of vaccines. Recently, viral mutants termed variants of concern (VOC) which may escape host immunity have emerged. The efficacy of spike encoding mRNA vaccines (CVnCoV and CV2CoV) against the ancestral strain and the VOC B.1.351 was tested in a K18-hACE2 transgenic mouse model. Naive mice and mice immunized with a formalin-inactivated SARS-CoV-2 preparation were used as controls. mRNA-immunized mice develop elevated SARS-CoV-2 RBD-specific antibody and neutralization titers which are readily detectable, but significantly reduced against VOC B.1.351. The mRNA vaccines fully protect from disease and mortality caused by either viral strain. SARS-CoV-2 remains undetected in swabs, lung, or brain in these groups. Despite lower neutralizing antibody titers compared to the ancestral strain BavPat1, CVnCoV and CV2CoV show complete disease protection against the novel VOC B.1.351 in our studies.


Subject(s)
Antibodies, Neutralizing/blood , Antibodies, Viral/blood , COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology , COVID-19/prevention & control , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/immunology , Animals , Cell Line , Chlorocebus aethiops , Genome, Viral/genetics , Humans , Mice , Mice, Transgenic , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Vero Cells
7.
Nature ; 592(7852): 122-127, 2021 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1104508

ABSTRACT

During the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in humans, a D614G substitution in the spike glycoprotein (S) has emerged; virus containing this substitution has become the predominant circulating variant in the COVID-19 pandemic1. However, whether the increasing prevalence of this variant reflects a fitness advantage that improves replication and/or transmission in humans or is merely due to founder effects remains unknown. Here we use isogenic SARS-CoV-2 variants to demonstrate that the variant that contains S(D614G) has enhanced binding to the human cell-surface receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), increased replication in primary human bronchial and nasal airway epithelial cultures as well as in a human ACE2 knock-in mouse model, and markedly increased replication and transmissibility in hamster and ferret models of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Our data show that the D614G substitution in S results in subtle increases in binding and replication in vitro, and provides a real competitive advantage in vivo-particularly during the transmission bottleneck. Our data therefore provide an explanation for the global predominance of the variant that contains S(D614G) among the SARS-CoV-2 viruses that are currently circulating.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/transmission , COVID-19/virology , Mutation , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Virus Replication/genetics , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , Animals , Bronchi/cytology , Bronchi/virology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Cell Line , Cells, Cultured , Cricetinae , Disease Models, Animal , Epithelial Cells/virology , Female , Ferrets/virology , Founder Effect , Gene Knock-In Techniques , Genetic Fitness , Humans , Male , Mesocricetus , Mice , Nasal Mucosa/cytology , Nasal Mucosa/virology , Protein Binding , RNA, Viral/analysis , Receptors, Coronavirus/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity
8.
bioRxiv ; 2020 Oct 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-915978

ABSTRACT

During the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in humans a D614G substitution in the spike (S) protein emerged and became the predominant circulating variant (S-614G) of the COVID-19 pandemic 1 . However, whether the increasing prevalence of the S-614G variant represents a fitness advantage that improves replication and/or transmission in humans or is merely due to founder effects remains elusive. Here, we generated isogenic SARS-CoV-2 variants and demonstrate that the S-614G variant has (i) enhanced binding to human ACE2, (ii) increased replication in primary human bronchial and nasal airway epithelial cultures as well as in a novel human ACE2 knock-in mouse model, and (iii) markedly increased replication and transmissibility in hamster and ferret models of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Collectively, our data show that while the S-614G substitution results in subtle increases in binding and replication in vitro , it provides a real competitive advantage in vivo , particularly during the transmission bottle neck, providing an explanation for the global predominance of S-614G variant among the SARS-CoV-2 viruses currently circulating.

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