Vectored immunoprophylaxis and treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a preclinical model
Vectored immunoprophylaxis was first developed as a means of establishing engineered immunity to HIV using an adenoassociated viral vector expressing a broadly neutralizing antibody. We applied this concept to establish long-term prophylaxis against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in a mouse model using adenoassociated virus and lentiviral vectors expressing a high-affinity angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) decoy. Administration of decoy-expressing (adenoassociated virus) AAV2.retro and AAV6.2 vectors by intranasal instillation or intramuscular injection protected mice against high-titered SARS-CoV-2 infection. AAV and lentiviral vectored immunoprophylaxis was durable and was active against SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariants. The AAV vectors were also effective therapeutically when administered postinfection. Vectored immunoprophylaxis could be of value for immunocompromised individuals for whom vaccination is not practical and as a means to rapidly establish protection from infection. Unlike monoclonal antibody therapy, the approach is expected to remain active despite continued evolution viral variants.
Delta-Omicron recombinant escapes therapeutic antibody neutralization
The emergence of recombinant viruses is a threat to public health, as recombination may integrate variant-specific features that together result in escape from treatment or immunity. The selective advantages of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 isolates over their parental lineages remain unknown. We identified a Delta-Omicron (AY.45-BA.1) recombinant in an immunosuppressed transplant recipient treated with monoclonal antibody Sotrovimab. The single recombination breakpoint is located in the spike N-terminal domain adjacent to the Sotrovimab binding site. While Delta and BA.1 are sensitive to Sotrovimab neutralization, the Delta-Omicron recombinant is highly resistant. To our knowledge, this is the first described instance of recombination between circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants as a functional mechanism of resistance to treatment and immune escape.
Prophylaxis and treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection by an ACE2 receptor decoy in a preclinical animal model
The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants with highly mutated spike proteins has presented an obstacle to the use of monoclonal antibodies for the prevention and treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection. We show that a high-affinity receptor decoy protein in which a modified ACE2 ectodomain is fused to a single domain of an immunoglobulin heavy chain Fc region dramatically suppressed virus loads in mice upon challenge with a high dose of parental SARS-CoV-2 or Omicron variants. The decoy also potently suppressed virus replication when administered shortly post-infection. The decoy approach offers protection against the current viral variants and, potentially, against SARS-CoV-2 variants that may emerge with the continued evolution of the spike protein or novel viruses that use ACE2 for virus entry.
Single-virus tracking reveals variant SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins induce ACE2-independent membrane interactions
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) became a global health crisis after its emergence in 2019. Replication of the virus is initiated by binding of the viral spike (S) protein to human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) on the target cell surface. Mutations acquired by SARS-CoV-2 S variants likely influence virus-target cell interaction. Here, using single-virus tracking to capture these initial steps, we observe how viruses carrying variant S interact with target cells. Specificity for ACE2 occurs for viruses with the reference sequence or D614G mutation. Analysis of the Alpha, Beta, and Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant S proteins revealed a progressive altered cell interaction with a reduced dependence on ACE2. Notably, the Delta variant S affinity was independent of ACE2. These enhanced interactions may account for the increased transmissibility of variants. Knowledge of how mutations influence cell interaction is essential for vaccine development against emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2.
Engineered multivalent self-assembled binder protein against SARS-CoV-2 RBD
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a global pandemic since December 2019, and with it, a push for innovations in rapid testing and neutralizing antibody treatments in an effort to solve the spread and fatality of the disease. One such solution to both of these prevailing issues is targeting the interaction of SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor binding domain (RBD) with the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor protein. Structural studies have shown that the N-terminal alpha-helix comprised of the first 23 residues of ACE2 plays an important role in this interaction. Where it is typical to design a binding domain to fit a target, we have engineered a protein that relies on multivalency rather than the sensitivity of a monomeric ligand to provide avidity to its target by fusing the N-terminal helix of ACE2 to the coiled-coil domain of the cartilage oligomeric matrix protein. The resulting ACE-MAP is able to bind to the SARS-CoV-2 RBD with improved binding affinity, is expressible in E. coli, and is thermally stable and relatively small (62Â kDa). These properties suggest ACE-MAP and the MAP scaffold to be a promising route towards developing future diagnostics and therapeutics to SARS-CoV-2.
Directly injected lentiviral vector-based T cell vaccine protects mice against acute and chronic viral infection
Lentiviral vector-based dendritic cell vaccines induce protective T cell responses against viral infection and cancer in animal models. In this study, we tested whether preventative and therapeutic vaccination could be achieved by direct injection of antigen expressing lentiviral vector, obviating the need for ex vivo transduction of dendritic cells. Injected lentiviral vector preferentially transduced splenic dendritic cells and resulted in long-term expression. Injection of a lentiviral vector encoding an MHC class I restricted T cell epitope of LCMV and CD40L induced an antigen-specific cytolytic CD8+ T lymphocyte response that protected the mice from infection. The injection of chronically infected mice with a lentiviral vector encoding LCMV MHC class I and II T cell epitopes and a soluble PD-1 microbody rapidly cleared the virus. Vaccination by direct injection of lentiviral vector was more effective in SAMHD1 knock-out mice, suggesting that lentiviral vectors containing Vpx, a lentiviral protein that increases the efficiency of dendritic cell transduction by inducing the degradation of SAMHD1, would be an effective strategy for the treatment of chronic disease in humans.
Resistance of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 Variants to Vaccine-Elicited Sera and Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibodies
The recent emergence of the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants with heavily mutated spike proteins has posed a challenge to the effectiveness of current vaccines and to monoclonal antibody therapy for severe COVID-19. After two immunizations of individuals with no history of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection with BNT162b2 vaccine, neutralizing titer against BA.1 and BA.2 were 20-fold decreased compared to titers against the parental D614G virus. A third immunization boosted overall neutralizing titers by about 5-fold but titers against BA.1 and BA.2 remained about 10-fold below that of D614G. Both Omicron variants were highly resistant to several of the emergency use authorized therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. The variants were highly resistant to Regeneron REGN10933 and REGN10987 and Lilly LY-CoV555 and LY-CoV016 while Vir-7831 and the mixture of AstraZeneca monoclonal antibodies AZD8895 and AZD1061 were significantly decreased in neutralizing titer. Strikingly, a single monoclonal antibody LY-CoV1404 potently neutralized both Omicron variants.
Inflammatory responses in the placenta upon SARS-CoV-2 infection late in pregnancy
The effect of SARS-CoV-2 infection on placental function is not well understood. Analysis of placentas from women who tested positive at delivery showed SARS-CoV-2 genomic and subgenomic RNA in 22 out of 52 placentas. Placentas from two mothers with symptomatic COVID-19 whose pregnancies resulted in adverse outcomes for the fetuses contained high levels of viral Alpha variant RNA. The RNA was localized to the trophoblasts that cover the fetal chorionic villi in direct contact with maternal blood. The intervillous spaces and villi were infiltrated with maternal macrophages and TÂ cells. Transcriptome analysis showed an increased expression of chemokines and pathways associated with viral infection and inflammation. Infection of placental cultures with live SARS-CoV-2 and spike protein-pseudotyped lentivirus showed infection of syncytiotrophoblast and, in rare cases, endothelial cells mediated by ACE2 and Neuropilin-1. Viruses with Alpha, Beta, and Delta variant spikes infected the placental cultures at significantly greater levels.
Increased resistance of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant to neutralization by vaccine-elicited and therapeutic antibodies
BACKGROUND:SARS-CoV-2 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use have been highly successful in preventing infection and lessening disease severity. The vaccines maintain effectiveness against earlier SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern but the heavily mutated, highly transmissible Omicron variant presents an obstacle both to vaccine protection and monoclonal antibody therapies. METHODS:Pseudotyped lentiviruses were incubated with serum from vaccinated and boosted donors or therapeutic monoclonal antibody and then applied to target cells. After 2 days, luciferase activity was measured in a microplate luminometer. Resistance mutations of the Omicron spike were identified using point-mutated spike protein pseudotypes and mapped onto the three-dimensional spike protein structure. FINDINGS/RESULTS:Virus with the Omicron spike protein was 26-fold resistant to neutralization by recovered donor sera and 26-34-fold resistance to Pfizer BNT162b2 and Moderna vaccine-elicited antibodies following two immunizations. A booster immunization increased neutralizing titres against Omicron. Neutralizing titres against Omicron were increased in the sera with a history of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Analysis of the therapeutic monoclonal antibodies showed that the Regeneron and Eli Lilly monoclonal antibodies were ineffective against the Omicron pseudotype while Sotrovimab and Evusheld were partially effective. INTERPRETATION/CONCLUSIONS:The results highlight the benefit of a booster immunization to protect against the Omicron variant and demonstrate the challenge to monoclonal antibody therapy. The decrease in neutralizing titres against Omicron suggest that much of the vaccine efficacy mayÂ rely on T cells. FUNDING/BACKGROUND:The work was funded by grants from the NIH to N.R.L. (DA046100, AI122390 and AI120898) and 55 to M.J.M. (UM1AI148574).
Variable susceptibility of intestinal organoid-derived monolayers to SARS-CoV-2 infection
Gastrointestinal effects associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) are highly variable for reasons that are not understood. In this study, we used intestinal organoid-derived cultures differentiated from primary human specimens as a model to examine interindividual variability. Infection of intestinal organoids derived from different donors with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) resulted in orders of magnitude differences in virus replication in small intestinal and colonic organoid-derived monolayers. Susceptibility to infection correlated with angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression level and was independent of donor demographic or clinical features. ACE2 transcript levels in cell culture matched the amount of ACE2 in primary tissue, indicating that this feature of the intestinal epithelium is retained in the organoids. Longitudinal transcriptomics of organoid-derived monolayers identified a delayed yet robust interferon signature, the magnitude of which corresponded to the degree of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Interestingly, virus with the Omicron variant spike (S) protein infected the organoids with the highest infectivity, suggesting increased tropism of the virus for intestinal tissue. These results suggest that heterogeneity in SARS-CoV-2 replication in intestinal tissues results from differences in ACE2 levels, which may underlie variable patient outcomes.