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Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-503302


CD4+ T follicular helper (TFH) cells are required for high-quality antibody generation and maintenance. However, the longevity and functional role of these cells are poorly defined in COVID-19 convalescents and vaccine recipients. Here, we longitudinally investigated the dynamics and functional roles of spike-specific circulating TFH cells and their subsets in convalescents at the 2nd, 5th, 8th, 12th and 24th months after COVID-19 symptom onset and in vaccinees after two and three doses of inactivated vaccine. SARS-CoV-2 infection elicited robust spike-specific TFH cell and antibody responses, of which spike-specific CXCR3+ TFH cells but not spike-specific CXCR3- TFH cells and neutralizing antibodies were persistent for at least two years in more than 80% of convalescents who experienced symptomatic COVID-19, which was well coordinated between spike-specific TFH cell and antibody responses at the 5th month after infection. Inactivated vaccine immunization also induced spike-specific TFH cell and antibody responses; however, these responses rapidly declined after six months with a two-dose standard administration, and a third dose significantly promoted antibody maturation and potency. Functionally, spike-specific CXCR3+ TFH cells exhibited better responsiveness than spike-specific CXCR3- TFH cells upon spike protein stimulation in vitro and showed superior capacity in supporting spike-specific antibody secreting cell (ASC) differentiation and antibody production than spike-specific CXCR3- TFH cells cocultured with autologous memory B cells. In conclusion, spike-specific CXCR3+ TFH cells played a dominant functional role in antibody elicitation and maintenance in SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination, suggesting that induction of CXCR3-biased spike-specific TFH cell differentiation will benefit SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development aiming to induce long-term protective immune memory.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-486173


Large-scale populations in the world have been vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines, however, breakthrough infections of SARS-CoV-2 are still growing rapidly due to the emergence of immune-evasive variants, especially Omicron. It is urgent to develop effective broad-spectrum vaccines to better control the pandemic of these variants. Here, we present a mosaic-type trimeric form of spike receptor-binding domain (mos-tri-RBD) as a broad-spectrum vaccine candidate, which carries the key mutations from Omicron and other circulating variants. Tests in rats showed that the designed mos-tri-RBD, whether used alone or as a booster shot, elicited potent cross-neutralizing antibodies against not only Omicron but also other immune-evasive variants. Neutralizing antibody titers induced by mos-tri-RBD were substantially higher than those elicited by homo-tri-RBD (containing homologous RBDs from prototype strain) or the inactivated vaccine BBIBP-CorV. Our study indicates that mos-tri-RBD is highly immunogenic, which may serve as a broad-spectrum vaccine candidate in combating SARS-CoV-2 variants including Omicron.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-448958


The spike (S) protein receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 is an attractive target for COVID-19 vaccine developments, which naturally exists in a trimeric form. Here, guided by structural and computational analyses, we present a mutation-integrated trimeric form of RBD (mutI tri-RBD) as a broadly protective vaccine candidate, in which three RBDs were individually grafted from three different circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains including the prototype, Beta (B.1.351) and Kappa (B.1.617). The three RBDs were then connected end-to-end and co-assembled to possibly mimic the native trimeric arrangements in the natural S protein trimer. The recombinant expression of the mutI tri-RBD, as well as the homo-tri-RBD where the three RBDs were all truncated from the prototype strain, by mammalian cell exhibited correct folding, strong bio-activities, and high stability. The immunization of both the mutI tri-RBD and homo-tri-RBD plus aluminum adjuvant induced high levels of specific IgG and neutralizing antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 prototype strain in mice. Notably, regarding to the "immune-escape" Beta (B.1.351) variant, mutI tri-RBD elicited significantly higher neutralizing antibody titers than homo-tri-RBD. Furthermore, due to harboring the immune-resistant mutations as well as the evolutionarily convergent hotspots, the designed mutI tri-RBD also induced strong broadly neutralizing activities against various SARS-CoV-2 variants, especially the variants partially resistant to homo-tri-RBD. Homo-tri-RBD has been approved by the China National Medical Products Administration to enter clinical trial (No. NCT04869592), and the superior broad neutralization performances against SARS-CoV-2 support the mutI tri-RBD as a more promising vaccine candidate for further clinical developments.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21253850


BackgroundThe significant morbidity and mortality resulted from the infection of a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) call for urgent development of effective and safe vaccines. We report the immunogenicity and safety of a SARS-CoV-2 inactivated vaccine, KCONVAC, in healthy adults. MethodsTwo phase 1 and phase 2 randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trials of KCONVAC were conducted in Chinese healthy adults aged 18 through 59 years. The phase 1 trial was conducted in a manner of dosage escalation. The first 30 participants were randomized in a ratio of 4:1 to receive two doses of either KCONVAC at 5 g per dose or placebo on Day 0 and Day 14, and the second 30 participants were randomized to receive either KCONVAC at 10 g per dose or placebo following the same procedures. The participants in the phase 2 trial were randomized in a ratio of 2:2:1 to receive either KCONVAC at 5 g or 10 g per dose, or placebo on Day 0 and Day 14, or Day 0 and Day 28. In the phase 1 trial, the primary safety endpoint was the proportion of participants experiencing adverse reactions/events within 28 days following each vaccination. Antibody response and cellular response were assayed in the phase 1 trial. In the phase 2 trial, the primary immunogenicity endpoint was the seroconversion and titre of neutralization antibody, and the seroconversion of receptor binding domain (RBD)-IgG 28 days after the second dose. FindingsIn the phase 1 trial, 60 participants were enrolled and received at least one dose of 5-g vaccine (N=24), 10-g vaccine (N=24), or placebo (N=12). In the phase 2 trial, 500 participants were enrolled and received at least one dose of 5-g vaccine (N=100 for 0/14 or 0/28 regimens), 10-g vaccine (N=100 for each regimen), or placebo (N=50 for each regimen). In the phase 1 trial, 13 (54%), 11(46%), and 7 (58%) participants reported at least one adverse event (AE), of whom 10 (42%), 6 (25%), and 6 (50%) participants reported at least one vaccination-related AE after receiving 5-g vaccine, 10-g vaccine, or placebo, respectively. In the phase 2 trial, 16 (16%), 19 (19%), and 9 (18%) participants reported at least one AE, of whom 13 (13%), 17 (17%), and 6 (12%) participants reported at least one vaccination-related AE after receiving 5-g vaccine, 10-g vaccine, or placebo at the regimen of Day 0/14, respectively. Similar results were observed in the three treatment groups of Day 0/28 regimen. All the AEs were grade 1 or 2 in intensity. No AE of grade 3 or more was reported. One SAE (foot fracture) was reported in the phase 1 trial. KCONVAC induced significant antibody response. 87{middle dot}5% (21/24) to 100% (24/24) of participants in the phase 1 trial and 83{middle dot}0% (83/100) to 100% (99/99) of participants in the phase 2 trial seroconverted for neutralising antibody to live virus, neutralising antibody to pseudovirus, and RBD-IgG after receiving two doses. Across the treatment groups in the two trials, the geometric mean titres (GMTs) of neutralising antibody to live virus ranged from 29{middle dot}3 to 49{middle dot}1 at Day 0/14 regimen and from 100{middle dot}2 to 131{middle dot}7 at Day 0/28 regimen, neutralising antibody to pseudovirus ranged from 69{middle dot}4 to 118{middle dot}7 at Day 0/14 regimen and from 153{middle dot}6 to 276{middle dot}6 at Day 0/28 regimen, and RBD-IgG ranged from 605{middle dot}3 to 1169{middle dot}8 at Day 0/14 regimen and from 1496{middle dot}8 to 2485{middle dot}5 at Day 0/28 regimen. RBD-IgG subtyping assay showed that a significant part of RBD-IgG was IgG1. The vaccine induced obvious T-cell response with 56{middle dot}5% (13/23) and 62{middle dot}5% (15/24) of participants in 5-g and 10-g vaccine groups showed positive interferon-{gamma} enzyme-linked immunospot responses 14 days after the second dose in the phase 1 trial, respectively. InterpretationKCONVAC is well tolerated and able to induce robust antibody response and cellular response in adults aged 18 to 59 years, which warrants further evaluation with this vaccine in the upcoming phase 3 efficacy trial. FundingGuandong Emergency Program for Prevention and Control of COVID-19 (2020A1111340002) and Shenzhen Key Research Project for Prevention and Control of COVID-19.