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Microb Cell Fact ; 21(1): 180, 2022 Sep 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2009403


BACKGROUND: Komagataella phaffii is a commonly used alternative host for manufacturing therapeutic proteins, in part because of its ability to secrete recombinant proteins into the extracellular space. Incorrect processing of secreted proteins by cells can, however, cause non-functional product-related variants, which are expensive to remove in purification and lower overall process yields. The secretion signal peptide, attached to the N-terminus of the recombinant protein, is a major determinant of the quality of the protein sequence and yield. In K. phaffii, the signal peptide from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae alpha mating factor often yields the highest secreted titer of recombinant proteins, but the quality of secreted protein can vary highly. RESULTS: We determined that an aggregated product-related variant of the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain is caused by N-terminal extension from incomplete cleavage of the signal peptide. We eliminated this variant and improved secreted protein titer up to 76% by extension of the N-terminus with a short, functional peptide moiety or with the EAEA residues from the native signal peptide. We then applied this strategy to three other recombinant subunit vaccine antigens and observed consistent elimination of the same aggregated product-related variant. Finally, we demonstrated that this benefit in quality and secreted titer can be achieved with addition of a single amino acid to the N-terminus of the recombinant protein. CONCLUSIONS: Our observations suggest that steric hindrance of proteases in the Golgi that cleave the signal peptide can cause unwanted N-terminal extension and related product variants. We demonstrated that this phenomenon occurs for multiple recombinant proteins, and can be addressed by minimal modification of the N-terminus to improve steric accessibility. This strategy may enable consistent secretion of a broad range of recombinant proteins with the highly productive alpha mating factor secretion signal peptide.

COVID-19 , Humans , Mating Factor , Protein Sorting Signals , Recombinant Proteins/genetics , Recombinant Proteins/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2 , Saccharomyces cerevisiae/metabolism , Saccharomycetales
Hum Vaccin Immunother ; 18(5): 2079346, 2022 11 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1878720


Low-cost, refrigerator-stable COVID-19 vaccines will facilitate global access and improve vaccine coverage in low- and middle-income countries. To this end, subunit-based approaches targeting the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein remain attractive. Antibodies against RBD neutralize SARS-CoV-2 by blocking viral attachment to the host cell receptor, ACE2. Here, a yeast-produced recombinant RBD antigen (RBD-L452K-F490W or RBD-J) was formulated with various combinations of aluminum-salt (Alhydrogel®, AH; AdjuPhos®, AP) and CpG 1018 adjuvants. We assessed the effect of antigen-adjuvant interactions on the stability and mouse immunogenicity of various RBD-J preparations. While RBD-J was 50% adsorbed to AH and <15% to AP, addition of CpG resulted in complete AH binding, yet no improvement in AP adsorption. ACE2 competition ELISA analyses of formulated RBD-J stored at varying temperatures (4, 25, 37°C) revealed that RBD-J was destabilized by AH, an effect exacerbated by CpG. DSC studies demonstrated that aluminum-salt and CpG adjuvants decrease the conformational stability of RBD-J and suggest a direct CpG-RBD-J interaction. Although AH+CpG-adjuvanted RBD-J was the least stable in vitro, the formulation was most potent at eliciting SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus neutralizing antibodies in mice. In contrast, RBD-J formulated with AP+CpG showed minimal antigen-adjuvant interactions, a better stability profile, but suboptimal immune responses. Interestingly, the loss of in vivo potency associated with heat-stressed RBD-J formulated with AH+CpG after one dose was abrogated by a booster. Our findings highlight the importance of elucidating the key interrelationships between antigen-adjuvant interactions, storage stability, and in vivo performance to enable successful formulation development of stable and efficacious subunit vaccines.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Mice , Humans , Animals , COVID-19 Vaccines , Aluminum , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , COVID-19/prevention & control , Mice, Inbred BALB C , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus , Adjuvants, Immunologic , Antibodies, Viral , Antibodies, Neutralizing