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Nature ; 602(7896): 307-313, 2022 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1585832


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.

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
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 4048, 2021 06 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1290662


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.

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