Gattinger P, Kratzer B, Tulaeva I, Niespodziana K, Ohradanova-Repic A, Gebetsberger L, Borochova K, Garner-Spitzer E, Trapin D, Hofer G, Keller W, Baumgartner I, Tancevski I, Khaitov M, Karaulov A, Stockinger H, Wiedermann U, Pickl WF, Valenta R
Allergy - (-) - [2022-03-31; online 2022-03-31]
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. One possibility to control the pandemic is to induce sterilizing immunity through the induction and maintenance of neutralizing antibodies preventing SARS-CoV-2 from entering human cells to replicate in. We report the construction and in vitro and in vivo characterization of a SARS-CoV-2 subunit vaccine (PreS-RBD) based on a structurally folded recombinant fusion protein consisting of two SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein receptor-binding domains (RBD) fused to the N- and C-terminus of hepatitis B virus (HBV) surface antigen PreS to enable the two unrelated proteins serving as immunologic carriers for each other. PreS-RBD, but not RBD alone, induced a robust and uniform RBD-specific IgG response in rabbits. Currently available genetic SARS-CoV-2 vaccines induce mainly transient IgG1 responses in vaccinated subjects whereas the PreS-RBD vaccine induced RBD-specific IgG antibodies consisting of an early IgG1 and sustained IgG4 antibody response in a SARS-CoV-2 naive subject. PreS-RBD-specific IgG antibodies were detected in serum and mucosal secretions, reacted with SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the omicron variant of concern and the HBV receptor-binding sites on PreS of currently known HBV genotypes. PreS-RBD-specific antibodies of the immunized subject more potently inhibited the interaction of RBD with its human receptor ACE2 and their virus-neutralizing titers (VNTs) were higher than median VNTs in a random sample of healthy subjects fully immunized with registered SARS-CoV-2 vaccines or in COVID-19 convalescent subjects. The PreS-RBD vaccine has the potential to serve as a combination vaccine for inducing sterilizing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and HBV by stopping viral replication through the inhibition of cellular virus entry.