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Sci Transl Med ; 14(654): eabn1413, 2022 07 20.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1949951


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.

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
Sci Immunol ; 6(66): eabf1152, 2021 Dec 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1583226


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.

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
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A ; 118(38)2021 09 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1397979


Global containment of COVID-19 still requires accessible and affordable vaccines for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Recently approved vaccines provide needed interventions, albeit at prices that may limit their global access. Subunit vaccines based on recombinant proteins are suited for large-volume microbial manufacturing to yield billions of doses annually, minimizing their manufacturing cost. These types of vaccines are well-established, proven interventions with multiple safe and efficacious commercial examples. Many vaccine candidates of this type for SARS-CoV-2 rely on sequences containing the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which mediates viral entry to cells via ACE2. Here we report an engineered sequence variant of RBD that exhibits high-yield manufacturability, high-affinity binding to ACE2, and enhanced immunogenicity after a single dose in mice compared to the Wuhan-Hu-1 variant used in current vaccines. Antibodies raised against the engineered protein exhibited heterotypic binding to the RBD from two recently reported SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (501Y.V1/V2). Presentation of the engineered RBD on a designed virus-like particle (VLP) also reduced weight loss in hamsters upon viral challenge.

COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Protein Engineering/methods , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Animals , Antibodies, Viral/immunology , Antigens, Viral , Binding Sites , COVID-19/virology , COVID-19 Vaccines/economics , Humans , Immunogenicity, Vaccine , Mice , Mice, Inbred BALB C , Models, Molecular , Protein Binding , Protein Conformation , Saccharomycetales/metabolism , Vaccines, Subunit