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Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-518541


Human Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (hACE2) is the major receptor enabling host cell invasion by SARS-CoV-2 via interaction with Spike glycoprotein. The murine ACE2 ortholog does not interact efficiently with SARS-CoV-2 Spike and therefore the conventional laboratory mouse strains are not permissive to SARS-CoV-2 replication. Here, we generated new hACE2 transgenic mice, which harbor the hACE2 gene under the human keratin 18 promoter, in C57BL/6 "HHD-DR1" background. HHD-DR1 mice are fully devoid of murine Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules of class-I and -II and express only MHC molecules from Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) HLA 02.01, DRA01.01, DRB1.01.01 alleles, widely expressed in human populations. We selected three transgenic strains, with various hACE2 mRNA expression levels and distinctive profiles of lung and/or brain permissiveness to SARS-CoV-2 replication. Compared to the previously available B6.K18-ACE22Prlmn/JAX mice, which have limited permissiveness to SARS-CoV-2 Omicron replication, these three new hACE2 transgenic strains display higher levels of hACE2 mRNA expression, associated with high permissiveness to the replication of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sub-variants. As a first application, one of these MHC- and ACE2-humanized strains was successfully used to show the efficacy of a lentiviral vector-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-429211


Non-integrative, non-cytopathic and non-inflammatory lentiviral vectors are particularly suitable for mucosal vaccination and recently emerge as a promising strategy to elicit sterilizing prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2 in preclinical animal models. Here, we demonstrate that a single intranasal administration of a lentiviral vector encoding a prefusion form of SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein induces full protection of respiratory tracts and totally avoids pulmonary inflammation in the susceptible hamster model. More importantly, we generated a new transgenic mouse strain, expressing the human Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2, with unprecedent brain permissibility to SARS-CoV-2 replication and developing a lethal disease in <4 days post infection. Even though the neurotropism of SARS-CoV-2 is now well established, so far other vaccine strategies under development have not taken into the account the protection of central nervous system. Using our highly stringent transgenic model, we demonstrated that an intranasal booster immunization with the developed lentiviral vaccine candidate achieves full protection of both respiratory tracts and brain against SARS-CoV-2.