Selective adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron under booster vaccine pressure: a multicentre observational study
BACKGROUND:High rates of vaccination and natural infection drive immunity and redirect selective viral adaptation. Updated boosters are installed to cope with drifted viruses, yet data on adaptive evolution under increasing immune pressure in a real-world situation are lacking. METHODS:Cross-sectional study to characterise SARS-CoV-2 mutational dynamics and selective adaptation over >1 year in relation to vaccine status, viral phylogenetics, and associated clinical and demographic variables. FINDINGS/RESULTS:The study of >5400 SARS-CoV-2 infections between July 2021 and August 2022 in metropolitan New York portrayed the evolutionary transition from Delta to Omicron BA.1-BA.5 variants. Booster vaccinations were implemented during the Delta wave, yet booster breakthrough infections and SARS-CoV-2 re-infections were almost exclusive to Omicron. In adjusted logistic regression analyses, BA.1, BA.2, and BA.5 had a significant growth advantage over co-occurring lineages in the boosted population, unlike BA.2.12.1 or BA.4. Selection pressure by booster shots translated into diffuse adaptive evolution in Delta spike, contrasting with strong, receptor-binding motif-focused adaptive evolution in BA.2-BA.5 spike (Fisher Exact tests; non-synonymous/synonymous mutation rates per site). Convergent evolution has become common in Omicron, engaging spike positions crucial for immune escape, receptor binding, or cleavage. INTERPRETATION/CONCLUSIONS:Booster shots are required to cope with gaps in immunity. Their discriminative immune pressure contributes to their effectiveness but also requires monitoring of selective viral adaptation processes. Omicron BA.2 and BA.5 had a selective advantage under booster vaccination pressure, contributing to the evolution of BA.2 and BA.5 sublineages and recombinant forms that predominate in 2023. FUNDING/BACKGROUND:The study was supported by NYU institutional funds and partly by the Cancer Center Support Grant P30CA016087 at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center.
Generation of quality-controled SARS-CoV-2 variant stocks
One of the main challenges in the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) stems from the ongoing evolution of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) into multiple variants. To address this hurdle, research groups around the world have independently developed protocols to isolate these variants from clinical samples. These isolates are then used in translational and basic research-for example, in vaccine development, drug screening or characterizing SARS-CoV-2 biology and pathogenesis. However, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned that the introduction of artefacts during both in vitro isolation and subsequent propagation to virus stocks can lessen the validity and reproducibility of data. We propose a rigorous pipeline for the generation of high-quality SARS-CoV-2 variant clonal isolates that minimizes the acquisition of mutations and introduces stringent controls to detect them. Overall, the process includes eight stages: (i) cell maintenance, (ii) isolation of SARS-CoV-2 from clinical specimens, (iii) determination of infectious virus titers by plaque assay, (iv) clonal isolation by plaque purification, (v) whole-virus-genome deep-sequencing, (vi and vii) amplification of selected virus clones to master and working stocks and (viii) sucrose purification. This comprehensive protocol will enable researchers to generate reliable SARS-CoV-2 variant inoculates for in vitro and in vivo experimentation and will facilitate comparisons and collaborative work. Quality-controled working stocks for most applications can be generated from acquired biorepository virus within 1 month. An additional 5-8 d are required when virus is isolated from clinical swab material, and another 6-7 d is needed for sucrose-purifying the stocks.
Multimodal single-cell datasets characterize antigen-specific CD8+ T cells across SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and infection
The immune response to SARS-CoV-2 antigen after infection or vaccination is defined by the durable production of antibodies and T cells. Population-based monitoring typically focuses on antibody titer, but there is a need for improved characterization and quantification of T cell responses. Here, we used multimodal sequencing technologies to perform a longitudinal analysis of circulating human leukocytes collected before and after immunization with the mRNA vaccine BNT162b2. Our data indicated distinct subpopulations of CD8+ T cells, which reliably appeared 28 days after prime vaccination. Using a suite of cross-modality integration tools, we defined their transcriptome, accessible chromatin landscape and immunophenotype, and we identified unique biomarkers within each modality. We further showed that this vaccine-induced population was SARS-CoV-2 antigen-specific and capable of rapid clonal expansion. Moreover, we identified these CD8+ T cell populations in scRNA-seq datasets from COVID-19 patients and found that their relative frequency and differentiation outcomes were predictive of subsequent clinical outcomes.
Immune response, phenotyping and molecular graft surveillance in kidney transplant recipients following severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 vaccination
BACKGROUND:Understanding immunogenicity and alloimmune risk following severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccination in kidney transplant recipients is imperative to understanding the correlates of protection and to inform clinical guidelines. METHODS:We studied 50 kidney transplant recipients following SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and quantified their anti-spike protein antibody, donor-derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA), gene expression profiling (GEP), and alloantibody formation. RESULTS:Participants were stratified using nucleocapsid testing as either SARS-CoV-2-naïve or experienced prior to vaccination. One of 34 (3%) SARS-CoV-2 naïve participants developed anti-spike protein antibodies. In contrast, the odds ratio for the association of a prior history of SARS-CoV-2 infection with vaccine response was 18.3 (95% confidence interval 3.2, 105.0, p < 0.01). Pre- and post-vaccination levels did not change for median dd-cfDNA (0.23% vs. 0.21% respectively, p = 0.13), GEP scores (9.85 vs. 10.4 respectively, p = 0.45), calculated panel reactive antibody, de-novo donor specific antibody status, or estimated glomerular filtration rate. CONCLUSIONS:SARS-CoV-2 vaccines do not appear to trigger alloimmunity in kidney transplant recipients. The degree of vaccine immunogenicity was associated most strongly with a prior history of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Discrete immune response signature to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccination versus infection
Both SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination elicit potent immune responses. A number of studies have described immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, beyond antibody production, immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines remain largely uncharacterized. Here, we performed multimodal single-cell sequencing on peripheral blood of patients with acute COVID-19 and healthy volunteers before and after receiving the SARS-CoV-2 BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine to compare the immune responses elicited by the virus and by this vaccine. Phenotypic and transcriptional profiling of immune cells, coupled with reconstruction of the B and T cell antigen receptor rearrangement of individual lymphocytes, enabled us to characterize and compare the host responses to the virus and to defined viral antigens. While both infection and vaccination induced robust innate and adaptive immune responses, our analysis revealed significant qualitative differences between the two types of immune challenges. In COVID-19 patients, immune responses were characterized by a highly augmented interferon response which was largely absent in vaccine recipients. Increased interferon signaling likely contributed to the observed dramatic upregulation of cytotoxic genes in the peripheral T cells and innate-like lymphocytes in patients but not in immunized subjects. Analysis of B and T cell receptor repertoires revealed that while the majority of clonal B and T cells in COVID-19 patients were effector cells, in vaccine recipients clonally expanded cells were primarily circulating memory cells. Importantly, the divergence in immune subsets engaged, the transcriptional differences in key immune populations, and the differences in maturation of adaptive immune cells revealed by our analysis have far-ranging implications for immunity to this novel pathogen.
Optimized quantification of intra-host viral diversity in SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus sequence data
High error rates of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases lead to diverse intra-host viral populations during infection. Errors made during replication that are not strongly deleterious to the virus can lead to the generation of minority variants. However, accurate detection of minority variants in viral sequence data is complicated by errors introduced during sample preparation and data analysis. We used synthetic RNA controls and simulated data to test seven variant-calling tools across a range of allele frequencies and simulated coverages. We show that choice of variant caller and use of replicate sequencing have the most significant impact on single-nucleotide variant (SNV) discovery and demonstrate how both allele frequency and coverage thresholds impact both false discovery and false-negative rates. When replicates are not available, using a combination of multiple callers with more stringent cutoffs is recommended. We use these parameters to find minority variants in sequencing data from SARS-CoV-2 clinical specimens and provide guidance for studies of intra-host viral diversity using either single replicate data or data from technical replicates. Our study provides a framework for rigorous assessment of technical factors that impact SNV identification in viral samples and establishes heuristics that will inform and improve future studies of intra-host variation, viral diversity, and viral evolution. IMPORTANCE When viruses replicate inside a host cell, the virus replication machinery makes mistakes. Over time, these mistakes create mutations that result in a diverse population of viruses inside the host. Mutations that are neither lethal to the virus nor strongly beneficial can lead to minority variants that are minor members of the virus population. However, preparing samples for sequencing can also introduce errors that resemble minority variants, resulting in the inclusion of false-positive data if not filtered correctly. In this study, we aimed to determine the best methods for identification and quantification of these minority variants by testing the performance of seven commonly used variant-calling tools. We used simulated and synthetic data to test their performance against a true set of variants and then used these studies to inform variant identification in data from SARS-CoV-2 clinical specimens. Together, analyses of our data provide extensive guidance for future studies of viral diversity and evolution.
Molecularly distinct memory CD4+ T cells are induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection and mRNA vaccination
UNLABELLED:Adaptive immune responses are induced by vaccination and infection, yet little is known about how CD4+ T cell memory differs between these two contexts. Notable differences in humoral and cellular immune responses to primary mRNA vaccination were observed and associated with prior COVID-19 history, including in the establishment and recall of Spike-specific CD4+ T cells. It was unclear whether CD4+ T cell memory established by infection or mRNA vaccination as the first exposure to Spike was qualitatively similar. To assess whether the mechanism of initial memory T cell priming affected subsequent responses to Spike protein, 14 people who were receiving a third mRNA vaccination, referenced here as the booster, were stratified based on whether the first exposure to Spike protein was by viral infection or immunization (infection-primed or vaccine-primed). Using multimodal scRNA-seq of activation-induced marker (AIM)-reactive Spike-specific CD4+ T cells, we identified 220 differentially expressed genes between infection- and vaccine-primed patients at the post-booster time point. Infection-primed participants had greater expression of genes related to cytotoxicity and interferon signaling. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) revealed enrichment for Interferon Alpha, Interferon Gamma, and Inflammatory response gene sets in Spike-specific CD4+ T cells from infection-primed individuals, whereas Spike-specific CD4+ T cells from vaccine-primed individuals had strong enrichment for proliferative pathways by GSEA. Finally, SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infection in vaccine-primed participants resulted in subtle changes in the transcriptional landscape of Spike-specific memory CD4+ T cells relative to pre-breakthrough samples but did not recapitulate the transcriptional profile of infection-primed Spike-specific CD4+ T cells. Together, these data suggest that CD4+ T cell memory is durably imprinted by the inflammatory context of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which has implications for personalization of vaccination based on prior infection history. ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY/UNASSIGNED:SARS-CoV-2 infection and mRNA vaccination prime transcriptionally distinct CD4+ T cell memory landscapes which are sustained with subsequent doses of vaccine.
Multimodal characterization of antigen-specific CD8 + T cells across SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and infection
The human immune response to SARS-CoV-2 antigen after infection or vaccination is defined by the durable production of antibodies and T cells. Population-based monitoring typically focuses on antibody titer, but there is a need for improved characterization and quantification of T cell responses. Here, we utilize multimodal sequencing technologies to perform a longitudinal analysis of circulating human leukocytes collected before and after BNT162b2 immunization. Our data reveal distinct subpopulations of CD8 + T cells which reliably appear 28 days after prime vaccination (7 days post boost). Using a suite of cross-modality integration tools, we define their transcriptome, accessible chromatin landscape, and immunophenotype, and identify unique biomarkers within each modality. By leveraging DNA-oligo-tagged peptide-MHC multimers and T cell receptor sequencing, we demonstrate that this vaccine-induced population is SARS-CoV-2 antigen-specific and capable of rapid clonal expansion. Moreover, we also identify these CD8 + populations in scRNA-seq datasets from COVID-19 patients and find that their relative frequency and differentiation outcomes are predictive of subsequent clinical outcomes. Our work contributes to our understanding of T cell immunity, and highlights the potential for integrative and multimodal analysis to characterize rare cell populations.
Low incidence and transient elevation of autoantibodies post mRNA COVID-19 vaccination in inflammatory arthritis
OBJECTIVES/OBJECTIVE:Autoantibody seroconversion has been extensively studied in the context of COVID-19 infection but data regarding post-vaccination autoantibody production is lacking. Here we aimed to determine the incidence of common autoantibody formation following mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in patients with inflammatory arthritis (IA) and in healthy controls. METHODS:Autoantibody seroconversion was measured by serum ELISA in a longitudinal cohort of IA participants and healthy controls before and after COVID-19 mRNA-based immunization. RESULTS:Overall, there was a significantly lower incidence of ANA seroconversion in participants who did not contract COVID-19 prior to vaccination compared with those who been previously infected (7.4% vs 24.1%, p= 0.014). Incidence of de novo anti-cyclic citrullinated protein (CCP) seroconversion in all participants was low at 4.9%. Autoantibody levels were typically of low titer, transient, and not associated with increase in IA flares. CONCLUSIONS:In both health and inflammatory arthritis, the risk of autoantibody seroconversion is lower following mRNA-based immunization than following natural SARS-CoV-2 infection. Importantly, seroconversion does not correlate with self-reported IA disease flare risk, further supporting the encouragement of mRNA-based COVID-19 immunization in the IA population.
Vaccine-Acquired SARS-CoV-2 Immunity versus Infection-Acquired Immunity: A Comparison of Three COVID-19 Vaccines
Around the world, rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been used as a strategy to end COVID-19-related restrictions and the pandemic. Several COVID-19 vaccine platforms have successfully protected against severe SARS-CoV-2 infection and subsequent deaths. Here, we compared humoral and cellular immunity in response to either infection or vaccination. We examined SARS-CoV-2 spike-specific immune responses from Pfizer/BioNTech BNT162b2, Moderna mRNA-1273, Janssen Ad26.COV2.S, and SARS-CoV-2 infection approximately 4 months post-exposure or vaccination. We found that these three vaccines all generate relatively similar immune responses and elicit a stronger response than natural infection. However, antibody responses to recent viral variants are diminished across all groups. The similarity of immune responses from the three vaccines studied here is an important finding in maximizing global protection as vaccination campaigns continue.