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medrxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.09.27.20189548


BACKGROUND In-depth investigations of the safety and immunogenicity of inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are needed. METHOD In a phase I randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled trial involving 192 healthy adults 18-59 years of age, two injections of three different doses (50 EU, 100 EU and 150 EU) of an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine or the placebo were administered intramuscularly with a 2- or 4-week interval between the injections. The safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine were evaluated within 28 days. FINDING In this study, 191 subjects assigned to three doses groups or the placebo group completed the 28-day trial. There were 44 adverse reactions within the 28 days, most commonly mild pain and redness at the injection site or slight fatigue, and no abnormal variations were observed in 48 cytokines in the serum samples of immunized subjects. The serum samples diluted from 1:32 to 1:4096 and incubated with the virus did not show antibody-dependent enhancement effects (ADEs) with regard to human natural killer cells, macrophages or dendritic cells. At day 14, the seroconversion rates had reached 92%, 100% and 96% with geometric mean titers (GMTs) of 18.0, 54.5 and 37.1, and at day 28, the seroconversion rates had reached 80%, 96% and 92% with GMTs of 10.6, 15.4 and 19.6in 0, 14 and 0, 28 procedures, respectively. Seroconversion was associated with the synchronous upregulation of ELISA antibodies against the S protein, N protein and virion and a cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response. Transcriptome analysis shaped the genetic diversity of immune response induced by the vaccine. INTERPRETATION In a population aged 18-59 years, this inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was safe and immunogenic.

biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.10.06.327445


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of a pandemic with growing global mortality. There is an urgent need to understand the molecular pathways required for host infection and anti-viral immunity. Using comprehensive identification of RNA-binding proteins by mass spectrometry (ChIRP-MS), we identified 309 host proteins that bind the SARS-CoV-2 RNA during active infection. Integration of this data with viral ChIRP-MS data from three other positive-sense RNA viruses defined pan-viral and SARS-CoV-2-specific host interactions. Functional interrogation of these factors with a genome-wide CRISPR screen revealed that the vast majority of viral RNA-binding proteins protect the host from virus-induced cell death, and we identified known and novel anti-viral proteins that regulate SARS-CoV-2 pathogenicity. Finally, our RNA-centric approach demonstrated a physical connection between SARS-CoV-2 RNA and host mitochondria, which we validated with functional and electron microscopy data, providing new insights into a more general virus-specific protein logic for mitochondrial interactions. Altogether, these data provide a comprehensive catalogue of SARS-CoV-2 RNA-host protein interactions, which may inform future studies to understand the mechanisms of viral pathogenesis, as well as nominate host pathways that could be targeted for therapeutic benefit.

biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.10.06.328112


The SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein is the most immunogenic of the structural proteins and plays essential roles in several stages of the virus lifecycle. It is comprised of two major structural domains: the RNA binding domain, which interacts with viral and host RNA, and the oligomerization domain which assembles to form the viral core. Here, we investigate the assembly state and RNA binding properties of the full-length nucleocapsid protein using native mass spectrometry. We find that dimers, and not monomers, of full-length N protein bind RNA, implying that dimers are the functional unit of ribonucleoprotein assembly. In addition, we find that N protein binds RNA with a preference for GGG motifs which are known to form short stem loop structures. Unexpectedly, we found that N undergoes autoproteolytic processing within the linker region, separating the two major domains. This process results in the formation of at least five proteoforms that we sequenced using electron transfer dissociation, higher-energy collision induced dissociation and corroborated by peptide mapping. The cleavage sites identified are in highly conserved regions leading us to consider the potential roles of the resulting proteoforms. We found that monomers of N-terminal proteoforms bind RNA with the same preference for GGG motifs and that the oligomeric state of a C-terminal proteoform (N156-419) is sensitive to pH. We used mass spectrometry to show that N binds to a monoclonal antibody raised against full-length N. No antibody interactions were detected for N proteoforms without C-terminal residues, therefore locating antigenic regions towards the C-terminus. We then tested interactions of the proteoforms with the immunophilin cyclophilin A, a key component in coronavirus replication. We found that N1-209 and N1-273 bind directly to cyclophilin A, an interaction that is abolished by the approved immunosuppressant drug cyclosporin A. We propose that the proteoforms generated via autoproteolysis evade antibody detection through removal of the antigenic C-terminus and facilitate interactions with structured RNA or cyclophilin thereby enabling the virus to proliferate.

biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.10.06.327635


Since December 2019, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2/2019-nCoV) has spread quickly worldwide, with more than 29 million cases and 920,000 deaths. Interestingly, coronaviruses were found to subvert and hijack the autophagic process to allow their viral replication. One of the spotlights had been focused on the autophagy inhibitors as a target mechanism effective in the inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Consequently, chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a derivative of CQ, was suggested as the first potentially be therapeutic strategies as they are known to be autophagy inhibitors. Then, they were used as therapeutics in SARS-CoV-2 infection along with remdesivir, for which the FDA approved emergency use authorization. Here, we investigated the antiviral activity and associated mechanism of GNS561, a small basic lipophilic molecule inhibitor of late-stage autophagy, against SARS-CoV-2. Our data indicated that GNS561 showed the highest antiviral effect for two SARS-CoV-2 strains compared to CQ and remdesivir. Focusing on the autophagy mechanism, we showed that GNS561, located in LAMP2-positive lysosomes, together with SARS-CoV-2, blocked autophagy by increasing the size of LC3-II spots and the accumulation of autophagic vacuoles in the cytoplasm with the presence of multilamellar bodies characteristic of a complexed autophagy. Finally, our study revealed that the combination of GNS561 and remdesivir was associated with a strong synergistic antiviral effect against SARS-CoV-2. Overall, our study highlights GNS561 as a powerful drug in SARS-CoV-2 infection and supports that the hypothesis that autophagy inhibitors could be an alternative strategy for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.08.04.235747


With the relatively serious global epidemic outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 infection, public concerns focus on not only clinical therapeutic measures and public quarantine for this disease but also the development of vaccines. The technical design of our SARS-CoV-2 inactivated vaccine provides a viral antigen that enables the exposure of more than one structural protein based upon the antibody composition of COVID-19 patients convalescent serum. This design led to valid immunity with increasing neutralizing antibody titers and a CTL response detected post-immunization of this vaccine by two injections in rhesus macaques. Further, this elicited immunoprotection in macaques enables not only to restrain completely viral replication in tissues of immunized animals, compared to the adjuvant control and those immunized by an RBD peptide vaccine, but also to significantly alleviate inflammatory lesion in lung tissues in histo-pathologic detection, compared to the adjuvant control with developed interstitial pneumonia. The data obtained from these macaques immunized with the inactivated vaccine or RBD peptide vaccine suggest that immunity with a clinically protective effect against SARS-CoV-2 infection should include not only specific neutralizing antibodies but also specific CTL responses against at least the S and N antigens.

biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.07.15.205211


The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on people worldwide, and there are currently no specific antivirus drugs or vaccines. We report herein a therapeutic based on catalase, an antioxidant enzyme that can effectively breakdown hydrogen peroxide and minimize the downstream reactive oxygen species, which are excessively produced resulting from the infection and inflammatory process. Catalase assists to regulate production of cytokines, protect oxidative injury, and repress replication of SARS-CoV-2, as demonstrated in human leukocytes and alveolar epithelial cells, and rhesus macaques, without noticeable toxicity. Such a therapeutic can be readily manufactured at low cost as a potential treatment for COVID-19.