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Cell Rep ; 38(6): 110348, 2022 02 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1712500


The increasing prevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants with the ability to escape existing humoral protection conferred by previous infection and/or immunization necessitates the discovery of broadly reactive neutralizing antibodies (nAbs). Utilizing mRNA display, we identify a set of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) proteins and characterize the structures of nAbs that recognize epitopes in the S1 subunit of the S glycoprotein. These structural studies reveal distinct binding modes for several antibodies, including the targeting of rare cryptic epitopes in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of S that interact with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to initiate infection, as well as the S1 subdomain 1. Further, we engineer a potent ACE2-blocking nAb to sustain binding to S RBD with the E484K and L452R substitutions found in multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants. We demonstrate that mRNA display is an approach for the rapid identification of nAbs that can be used in combination to combat emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Preprint in English | Other preprints | ID: ppcovidwho-296014


ABSTRACT In response to the need for a safe, efficacious vaccine that elicits vigorous T cell as well as humoral protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection, we have developed a dual-antigen COVID-19 vaccine comprising both the viral spike (S) protein modified to increase cell-surface expression (S-Fusion) and nucleocapsid (N) protein with an Enhanced T-cell Stimulation Domain (N-ETSD) to enhance MHC class I and II presentation and T-cell responses. The antigens are delivered using a human adenovirus serotype 5 (hAd5) platform with E1, E2b, and E3 regions deleted that has been shown previously in cancer vaccine studies to be safe and effective in the presence of pre-existing hAd5 immunity. The findings reported here are focused on human T-cell responses due to the likelihood that such responses will sustain efficacy against emerging variants, a hypothesis supported by our in silico prediction of T-cell epitope HLA binding for both the first-wave SARS-CoV-2 ‘A’ strain and the B.1.351 strain K417N, E484K, and N501Y spike and T201I N variants. We demonstrate the hAd5 S-Fusion + N-ETSD vaccine antigens expressed by previously SARS-CoV-2-infected patient dendritic cells elicit Th1 dominant activation of autologous patient T cells, indicating the vaccine antigens have the potential to elicit immune responses in previously infected patients. For participants in our open-label Phase 1b study of the vaccine ( NCT04591717 ; ), the magnitude of Th-1 dominant S- and N-specific T-cell responses after a single prime subcutaneous injection were comparable to T-cell responses from previously infected patients. Furthermore, vaccinated participant T-cell responses to S were similar for A strain S and a series of spike variant peptides, including S variants in the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 strains. The findings that this dual-antigen vaccine elicits SARS-CoV-2-relevant T-cell responses and that such cell-mediated protection is likely to be sustained against emerging variants supports the testing of this vaccine as a universal booster that would enhance and broaden existing immune protection conferred by currently approved S-based vaccines.

Sci Rep ; 11(1): 12740, 2021 06 17.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1275953


The SARS-CoV-2 variants replacing the first wave strain pose an increased threat by their potential ability to escape pre-existing humoral protection. An angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) decoy that competes with endogenous ACE2 for binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor binding domain (S RBD) and inhibits infection may offer a therapeutic option with sustained efficacy against variants. Here, we used Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulation to predict ACE2 sequence substitutions that might increase its affinity for S RBD and screened candidate ACE2 decoys in vitro. The lead ACE2(T27Y/H34A)-IgG1FC fusion protein with enhanced S RBD affinity shows greater live SARS-CoV-2 virus neutralization capability than wild type ACE2. MD simulation was used to predict the effects of S RBD variant mutations on decoy affinity that was then confirmed by testing of an ACE2 Triple Decoy that included an additional enzyme activity-deactivating H374N substitution against mutated S RBD. The ACE2 Triple Decoy maintains high affinity for mutated S RBD, displays enhanced affinity for S RBD N501Y or L452R, and has the highest affinity for S RBD with both E484K and N501Y mutations, making it a viable therapeutic option for the prevention or treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection with a high likelihood of efficacy against variants.

Amino Acid Substitution , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/chemistry , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/metabolism , Drug Discovery/methods , Molecular Dynamics Simulation , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Signal Transduction/drug effects , Amino Acid Sequence , COVID-19/virology , Humans , Mutation , Protein Binding/drug effects , Protein Domains/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Virus Internalization/drug effects