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Innovation (Camb) ; 3(2): 100221, 2022 Mar 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1713028


The highly pathogenic and readily transmissible SARS-CoV-2 has caused a global coronavirus pandemic, urgently requiring effective countermeasures against its rapid expansion. All available vaccine platforms are being used to generate safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Here, we generated a live-attenuated candidate vaccine strain by serial passaging of a SARS-CoV-2 clinical isolate in Vero cells. Deep sequencing revealed the dynamic adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 in Vero cells, resulting in a stable clone with a deletion of seven amino acids (N679SPRRAR685) at the S1/S2 junction of the S protein (named VAS5). VAS5 showed significant attenuation of replication in multiple human cell lines, human airway epithelium organoids, and hACE2 mice. Viral fitness competition assays demonstrated that VAS5 showed specific tropism to Vero cells but decreased fitness in human cells compared with the parental virus. More importantly, a single intranasal injection of VAS5 elicited a high level of neutralizing antibodies and prevented SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice as well as close-contact transmission in golden Syrian hamsters. Structural and biochemical analysis revealed a stable and locked prefusion conformation of the S trimer of VAS5, which most resembles SARS-CoV-2-3Q-2P, an advanced vaccine immunogen (NVAX-CoV2373). Further systematic antigenic profiling and immunogenicity validation confirmed that the VAS5 S trimer presents an enhanced antigenic mimic of the wild-type S trimer. Our results not only provide a potent live-attenuated vaccine candidate against COVID-19 but also clarify the molecular and structural basis for the highly attenuated and super immunogenic phenotype of VAS5.

Cell Res ; 32(4): 375-382, 2022 Apr.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1707327


Monoclonal antibodies represent important weapons in our arsenal to against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this potential is severely limited by the time-consuming process of developing effective antibodies and the relative high cost of manufacturing. Herein, we present a rapid and cost-effective lipid nanoparticle (LNP) encapsulated-mRNA platform for in vivo delivery of SARS-CoV-2 neutralization antibodies. Two mRNAs encoding the light and heavy chains of a potent SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody HB27, which is currently being evaluated in clinical trials, were encapsulated into clinical grade LNP formulations (named as mRNA-HB27-LNP). In vivo characterization demonstrated that intravenous administration of mRNA-HB27-LNP in mice resulted in a longer circulating half-life compared with the original HB27 antibody in protein format. More importantly, a single prophylactic administration of mRNA-HB27-LNP provided protection against SARS-CoV-2 challenge in mice at 1, 7 and even 63 days post administration. In a close contact transmission model, prophylactic administration of mRNA-HB27-LNP prevented SARS-CoV-2 infection between hamsters in a dose-dependent manner. Overall, our results demonstrate a superior long-term protection against SARS-CoV-2 conferred by a single administration of this unique mRNA antibody, highlighting the potential of this universal platform for antibody-based disease prevention and therapy against COVID-19 as well as a variety of other infectious diseases.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Antibodies, Neutralizing/therapeutic use , Antibodies, Viral/therapeutic use , COVID-19/prevention & control , Cricetinae , Humans , Liposomes , Mice , Nanoparticles , Pandemics/prevention & control , RNA, Messenger/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
Natl Sci Rev ; 8(8): nwab053, 2021 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1358471


Mutations and transient conformational movements of the receptor binding domain (RBD) that make neutralizing epitopes momentarily unavailable present immune escape routes for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). To mitigate viral escape, we developed a cocktail of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) targeting epitopes located on different domains of spike (S) protein. Screening of a library of monoclonal antibodies generated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of COVID-19 convalescent patients yielded potent NAbs, targeting the N-terminal domain (NTD) and RBD domain of S, effective at nM concentrations. Remarkably, a combination of RBD-targeting NAbs and NTD-binding NAbs, FC05, enhanced the neutralization potency in cell-based assays and an animal model. Results of competitive surface plasmon resonance assays and cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structures of antigen-binding fragments bound to S unveil determinants of immunogenicity. Combinations of immunogens, identified in the NTD and RBD of S, when immunized in rabbits and macaques, elicited potent protective immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. More importantly, two immunizations of this combination of NTD and RBD immunogens provided complete protection in macaques against a SARS-CoV-2 challenge, without observable antibody-dependent enhancement of infection. These results provide a proof of concept for neutralization-based immunogen design targeting SARS-CoV-2 NTD and RBD.

Cell Discov ; 7(1): 49, 2021 Jul 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1298837


SARS-CoV-2 infection causes a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations in humans, and olfactory dysfunction is one of the most predictive and common symptoms in COVID-19 patients. However, the underlying mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to olfactory disorders remains elusive. Herein, we demonstrate that intranasal inoculation with SARS-CoV-2 induces robust viral replication in the olfactory epithelium (OE), not the olfactory bulb (OB), resulting in transient olfactory dysfunction in humanized ACE2 (hACE2) mice. The sustentacular cells and Bowman's gland cells in the OE were identified as the major target cells of SARS-CoV-2 before invasion into olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). Remarkably, SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers massive cell death and immune cell infiltration and directly impairs the uniformity of the OE structure. Combined transcriptomic and quantitative proteomic analyses revealed the induction of antiviral and inflammatory responses, as well as the downregulation of olfactory receptor (OR) genes in the OE from the infected animals. Overall, our mouse model recapitulates olfactory dysfunction in COVID-19 patients and provides critical clues for understanding the physiological basis for extrapulmonary manifestations of COVID-19.

Cell ; 182(5): 1271-1283.e16, 2020 09 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-666099


There is an urgent need for vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) because of the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Among all approaches, a messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccine has emerged as a rapid and versatile platform to quickly respond to this challenge. Here, we developed a lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNA (mRNA-LNP) encoding the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 as a vaccine candidate (called ARCoV). Intramuscular immunization of ARCoV mRNA-LNP elicited robust neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 as well as a Th1-biased cellular response in mice and non-human primates. Two doses of ARCoV immunization in mice conferred complete protection against the challenge of a SARS-CoV-2 mouse-adapted strain. Additionally, ARCoV is manufactured as a liquid formulation and can be stored at room temperature for at least 1 week. ARCoV is currently being evaluated in phase 1 clinical trials.

RNA, Messenger/genetics , RNA, Viral/genetics , Vaccines, Synthetic/immunology , Viral Vaccines/immunology , Animals , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Binding Sites , COVID-19 Vaccines , Chlorocebus aethiops , Coronavirus Infections/genetics , Coronavirus Infections/immunology , Coronavirus Infections/prevention & control , Female , HEK293 Cells , HeLa Cells , Humans , Immunogenicity, Vaccine , Injections, Intramuscular , Macaca fascicularis , Male , Mice , Mice, Inbred ICR , Nanoparticles/chemistry , RNA, Messenger/metabolism , RNA, Viral/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Th1 Cells/immunology , Vaccine Potency , Vaccines, Synthetic/administration & dosage , Vaccines, Synthetic/genetics , Vero Cells , Viral Vaccines/administration & dosage , Viral Vaccines/genetics