The recent clinical success of multiple mRNA-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccines has proven the potential of RNA formulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) in humans, and products based on base-modified RNA, sequence-optimized RNA, and self-replicating RNAs formulated in LNPs are all in various stages of clinical development. However, much remains to be learned about critical parameters governing the manufacturing and use of LNP-RNA formulations. One important issue that has received limited attention in the literature to date is the identification of optimal storage conditions for LNP-RNA that preserve long-term activity of the formulations. Here, we analyzed the physical structure, in vivo expression characteristics, and functional activity of alphavirus-derived self-replicating RNA (repRNA)-loaded LNPs encoding HIV vaccine antigens following storage in varying temperatures, buffers, and in the presence or absence of cryoprotectants. We found that for lipid nanoparticles with compositions similar to clinically-used LNPs, storage in RNAse-free PBS containing 10% (w/v) sucrose at -20 °C was able to maintain vaccine stability and in vivo potency at a level equivalent to freshly prepared vaccines following 30 days of storage. LNPs loaded with repRNA could also be lyophilized with retention of bioactivity.
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.
Subject(s)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
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.