Current advancements and potential strategies in the development of MERS-CoV vaccines.
ABSTRACT: Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a newly emerging infectious disease caused by a novel coronavirus, MERS-coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a new member in the lineage C of ?-coronavirus (?-CoV). The increased human cases and high mortality rate of MERS-CoV infection make it essential to develop safe and effective vaccines. In this review, the current advancements and potential strategies in the development of MERS vaccines, particularly subunit vaccines based on MERS-CoV spike (S) protein and its receptor-binding domain (RBD), are discussed. How to improve the efficacy of subunit vaccines through novel adjuvant formulations and routes of administration as well as currently available animal models for evaluating the in vivo efficacy of MERS-CoV vaccines are also addressed. Overall, these strategies may have important implications for the development of effective and safe vaccines for MERS-CoV in the future.
Project description:Development of effective vaccines, in particular, subunit-based vaccines, against emerging Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) caused by the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) will provide the safest means of preventing the continuous spread of MERS in humans and camels. This review briefly describes the structure of the MERS-CoV spike (S) protein and its receptor-binding domain (RBD), discusses the current status of MERS vaccine development and illustrates the strategies used to develop RBD-based subunit vaccines against MERS. It also summarizes currently available animal models for MERS-CoV and proposes a future direction for MERS vaccines. Taken together, this review will assist researchers working to develop effective and safe subunit vaccines against MERS-CoV and any other emerging coronaviruses that might cause future pandemics.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) binds to cellular receptor dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4) via the spike (S) protein receptor-binding domain (RBD). The RBD contains critical neutralizing epitopes and serves as an important vaccine target. Since RBD mutations occur in different MERS-CoV isolates and antibody escape mutants, cross-neutralization of divergent MERS-CoV strains by RBD-induced antibodies remains unknown. Here, we constructed four recombinant RBD (rRBD) proteins with single or multiple mutations detected in representative human MERS-CoV strains from the 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 outbreaks, respectively, and one rRBD protein with multiple changes derived from camel MERS-CoV strains. Like the RBD of prototype EMC2012 (EMC-RBD), all five RBDs maintained good antigenicity and functionality, the ability to bind RBD-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) and the DPP4 receptor, and high immunogenicity, able to elicit S-specific antibodies. They induced potent neutralizing antibodies cross-neutralizing 17 MERS pseudoviruses expressing S proteins of representative human and camel MERS-CoV strains identified during the 2012-2015 outbreaks, 5 MAb escape MERS-CoV mutants, and 2 live human MERS-CoV strains. We then constructed two RBDs mutated in multiple key residues in the receptor-binding motif (RBM) of RBD and demonstrated their strong cross-reactivity with anti-EMC-RBD antibodies. These RBD mutants with diminished DPP4 binding also led to virus attenuation, suggesting that immunoevasion after RBD immunization is accompanied by loss of viral fitness. Therefore, this study demonstrates that MERS-CoV RBD is an important vaccine target able to induce highly potent and broad-spectrum neutralizing antibodies against infection by divergent circulating human and camel MERS-CoV strains. IMPORTANCE:MERS-CoV was first identified in June 2012 and has since spread in humans and camels. Mutations in its spike (S) protein receptor-binding domain (RBD), a key vaccine target, have been identified, raising concerns over the efficacy of RBD-based MERS vaccines against circulating human and camel MERS-CoV strains. Here, we constructed five vaccine candidates, designated 2012-RBD, 2013-RBD, 2014-RBD, 2015-RBD, and Camel-RBD, containing single or multiple mutations in the RBD of representative human and camel MERS-CoV strains during the 2012-2015 outbreaks. These RBD-based vaccine candidates maintained good functionality, antigenicity, and immunogenicity, and they induced strong cross-neutralizing antibodies against infection by divergent pseudotyped and live MERS-CoV strains, as well as antibody escape MERS-CoV mutants. This study provides impetus for further development of a safe, highly effective, and broad-spectrum RBD-based subunit vaccine to prevent MERS-CoV infection.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is an infectious virus that was first reported in 2012. The MERS-CoV genome encodes four major structural proteins, among which the spike (S) protein has a key role in viral infection and pathogenesis. The receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the S protein contains a critical neutralizing domain and is an important target for development of MERS vaccines and therapeutics. In this review, we describe the relevant features of the MERS-CoV S-protein RBD, summarize recent advances in the development of MERS-CoV RBD-based vaccines and therapeutic antibodies, and illustrate potential challenges and strategies to further improve their efficacy.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was originally identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It has caused MERS outbreaks with high mortality in the Middle East and Europe, raising a serious concern about its pandemic potential. Therefore, development of effective vaccines is crucial for preventing its further spread and future pandemic. Our previous study has shown that subcutaneous (s.c.) vaccination of a recombinant protein containing receptor-binding domain (RBD) of MERS-CoV S fused with Fc of human IgG (RBD-Fc) induced strong systemic neutralizing antibody responses in vaccinated mice. Here, we compared local and systemic immune responses induced by RBD-Fc via intranasal (i.n.) and s.c. immunization pathways. We found that i.n. vaccination of MERS-CoV RBD-Fc induced systemic humoral immune responses comparable to those induced by s.c. vaccination, including neutralizing antibodies, but more robust systemic cellular immune responses and significantly higher local mucosal immune responses in mouse lungs. This study suggests the potential of developing MERS-CoV RBD protein into an effective and safe mucosal candidate vaccine for prevention of respiratory tract infections caused by MERS-CoV.
Project description:An emerging respiratory infectious disease with high mortality, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), is caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS-CoV). It was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and has now spread to eight countries. Development of effective therapeutics and vaccines is crucial to save lives and halt the spread of MERS-CoV. Here, we show that a recombinant protein containing a 212-amino acid fragment (residues 377-588) in the truncated receptor-binding domain (RBD: residues 367-606) of MERS-CoV spike (S) protein fused with human IgG Fc fragment (S377-588-Fc) is highly expressed in the culture supernatant of transfected 293T cells. The purified S377-588-Fc protein efficiently binds to dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4), the receptor of MERS-CoV, and potently inhibited MERS-CoV infection, suggesting its potential to be further developed as a therapeutic modality for treating MERS-CoV infection and saving the patients' lives. The recombinant S377-588-Fc is able to induce in the vaccinated mice strong MERS-CoV S-specific antibodies, which blocks the binding of RBD to DPP4 receptor and effectively neutralizes MERS-CoV infection. These findings indicate that this truncated RBD protein shows promise for further development as an effective and safe vaccine for the prevention of MERS-CoV infection.
Project description:Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes severe pulmonary infection, with ?35 % mortality. Spike glycoprotein (S) of MERS-CoV is a key target for vaccines and therapeutics because S mediates viral entry and membrane-fusion to host cells. Here, four different S subunit proteins, receptor-binding domain (RBD; 358-606 aa), S1 (1-751 aa), S2 (752-1296 aa), and S?TM (1-1296 aa), were generated using the baculoviral system and immunized in mice to develop neutralizing antibodies. We developed 77 hybridomas and selected five neutralizing mAbs by immunization with S?TM against MERS-CoV EMC/2012 strain S-pseudotyped lentivirus. However, all five monoclonal antibodies (mAb) did not neutralize the pseudotyped V534A mutation. Additionally, one mAb RBD-14F8 did not show neutralizing activity against pseudoviruses with amino acid substitution of L506?F or D509?G (England1 strain, EMC/2012 L506?F, and EMC/2012 D509?G), and RBD-43E4 mAb could not neutralize the pseudotyped I529?T mutation, while three other neutralizing mAbs showed broad neutralizing activity. This implies that the mutation in residue 506-509, 529, and 534 of S is critical to generate neutralization escape variants of MERS-CoV. Interestingly, all five neutralizing mAbs have binding affinity to RBD, although most mAbs generated by RBD did not have neutralizing activity. Additionally, chimeric antibodies of RBD-14F8 and RBD-43E4 with human Fc and light chain showed neutralizing effect against wild type MERS-CoV KOR/KNIH/002, similar to the original mouse mAbs. Thus, our mAbs can be utilized for the identification of specific mutations of MERS-CoV.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a WHO priority pathogen for which vaccines are urgently needed. Using an immune-focusing approach, we created self-assembling particles multivalently displaying critical regions of the MERS-CoV spike protein ?fusion peptide, heptad repeat 2, and receptor binding domain (RBD) ? and tested their immunogenicity and protective capacity in rabbits. Using a "plug-and-display" SpyTag/SpyCatcher system, we coupled RBD to lumazine synthase (LS) particles producing multimeric RBD-presenting particles (RBD-LS). RBD-LS vaccination induced antibody responses of high magnitude and quality (avidity, MERS-CoV neutralizing capacity, and mucosal immunity) with cross-clade neutralization. The antibody responses were associated with blocking viral replication and upper and lower respiratory tract protection against MERS-CoV infection in rabbits. This arrayed multivalent presentation of the viral RBD using the antigen-SpyTag/LS-SpyCatcher is a promising MERS-CoV vaccine candidate and this platform may be applied for the rapid development of vaccines against other emerging viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.
Project description:The emergence of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) as a cause of severe respiratory disease highlights the need for effective approaches to CoV vaccine development. Efforts focused solely on the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the viral Spike (S) glycoprotein may not optimize neutralizing antibody (NAb) responses. Here we show that immunogens based on full-length S DNA and S1 subunit protein elicit robust serum-neutralizing activity against several MERS-CoV strains in mice and non-human primates. Serological analysis and isolation of murine monoclonal antibodies revealed that immunization elicits NAbs to RBD and, non-RBD portions of S1 and S2 subunit. Multiple neutralization mechanisms were demonstrated by solving the atomic structure of a NAb-RBD complex, through sequencing of neutralization escape viruses and by constructing MERS-CoV S variants for serological assays. Immunization of rhesus macaques confers protection against MERS-CoV-induced radiographic pneumonia, as assessed using computerized tomography, supporting this strategy as a promising approach for MERS-CoV vaccine development.
Project description:Vaccines are urgently needed to control the ongoing pandemic COVID-19 and previously emerging MERS/SARS caused by coronavirus (CoV) infections. The CoV spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) is an attractive vaccine target but is undermined by limited immunogenicity. We describe a dimeric form of MERS-CoV RBD that overcomes this limitation. The RBD-dimer significantly increased neutralizing antibody (NAb) titers compared to conventional monomeric form and protected mice against MERS-CoV infection. Crystal structure showed RBD-dimer fully exposed dual receptor-binding motifs, the major target for NAbs. Structure-guided design further yielded a stable version of RBD-dimer as a tandem repeat single-chain (RBD-sc-dimer) which retained the vaccine potency. We generalized this strategy to design vaccines against COVID-19 and SARS, achieving 10- to 100-fold enhancement of NAb titers. RBD-sc-dimers in pilot scale production yielded high yields, supporting their scalability for further clinical development. The framework of immunogen design can be universally applied to other beta-CoV vaccines to counter emerging threats.
Project description:The spike glycoprotein (S) of recently identified Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) targets the cellular receptor, dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4). Sequence comparison and modeling analysis have revealed a putative receptor-binding domain (RBD) on the viral spike, which mediates this interaction. We report the 3.0 Å-resolution crystal structure of MERS-CoV RBD bound to the extracellular domain of human DPP4. Our results show that MERS-CoV RBD consists of a core and a receptor-binding subdomain. The receptor-binding subdomain interacts with DPP4 ?-propeller but not its intrinsic hydrolase domain. MERS-CoV RBD and related SARS-CoV RBD share a high degree of structural similarity in their core subdomains, but are notably divergent in the receptor-binding subdomain. Mutagenesis studies have identified several key residues in the receptor-binding subdomain that are critical for viral binding to DPP4 and entry into the target cell. The atomic details at the interface between MERS-CoV RBD and DPP4 provide structural understanding of the virus and receptor interaction, which can guide development of therapeutics and vaccines against MERS-CoV infection.