Introduction of neutralizing immunogenicity index to the rational design of MERS coronavirus subunit vaccines.
ABSTRACT: Viral subunit vaccines often contain immunodominant non-neutralizing epitopes that divert host immune responses. These epitopes should be eliminated in vaccine design, but there is no reliable method for evaluating an epitope's capacity to elicit neutralizing immune responses. Here we introduce a new concept 'neutralizing immunogenicity index' (NII) to evaluate an epitope's neutralizing immunogenicity. To determine the NII, we mask the epitope with a glycan probe and then assess the epitope's contribution to the vaccine's overall neutralizing immunogenicity. As proof-of-concept, we measure the NII for different epitopes on an immunogen comprised of the receptor-binding domain from MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Further, we design a variant form of this vaccine by masking an epitope that has a negative NII score. This engineered vaccine demonstrates significantly enhanced efficacy in protecting transgenic mice from lethal MERS-CoV challenge. Our study may guide the rational design of highly effective subunit vaccines to combat MERS-CoV and other life-threatening viruses.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) with pandemic potential is a major worldwide threat to public health. However, vaccine development for this pathogen lags behind as immunity associated with protection is currently largely unknown. In this study, an immunoinformatics-driven genome-wide screening strategy of vaccine targets was performed to thoroughly screen the vital and effective dominant immunogens against MERS-CoV. Conservancy and population coverage analysis of the epitopes were done by the Immune Epitope Database. The results showed that the nucleocapsid (N) protein of MERS-CoV might be a better protective immunogen with high conservancy and potential eliciting both neutralizing antibodies and T-cell responses compared with spike (S) protein. Further, the B-cell, helper T-cell and cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes were screened and mapped to the N protein. A total of 15 linear and 10 conformal B-cell epitopes that may induce protective neutralizing antibodies were obtained. Additionally, a total of 71 peptides with 9-mer core sequence were identified as helper T-cell epitopes, and 34 peptides were identified as CTL epitopes. Based on the maximum HLA binding alleles, top 10 helper T-cell epitopes and CTL epitopes that may elicit protective cellular immune responses against MERS-CoV were selected as MERS vaccine candidates. Population coverage analysis showed that the putative helper T-cell epitopes and CTL epitopes could cover the vast majority of the population in 15 geographic regions considered where vaccine would be employed. The B- and T-cell stimulation potentials of the screened epitopes is to be further validated for their efficient use as vaccines against MERS-CoV. Collectively, this study provides novel vaccine target candidates and may prompt further development of vaccines against MERS-CoV and other emerging infectious diseases.
Project description:The newly emerged Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is currently spreading among humans, making development of effective MERS vaccines a high priority. A defined receptor-binding domain (RBD) in MERS-CoV spike protein can potentially serve as a subunit vaccine candidate against MERS-CoV infections. To identify an ideal vaccine candidate, we have constructed five different versions of RBD fragments, S350-588-Fc, S358-588-Fc, S367-588-Fc, S367-606-Fc, and S377-588-Fc (their names indicate their residue range in the spike protein and their C-terminal Fc tag), and further investigated their receptor binding affinity, antigenicity, immunogenicity, and neutralizing potential. The results showed that S377-588-Fc is among the RBD fragments that demonstrated the highest DPP4-binding affinity and induced the highest-titer IgG antibodies in mice. In addition, S377-588-Fc elicited higher-titer neutralizing antibodies than all the other RBD fragments in mice, and also induced high-titer neutralizing antibodies in immunized rabbits. Structural analysis suggests that S377-588-Fc contains the stably folded RBD structure, the full receptor-binding site, and major neutralizing epitopes, such that additional structures to this fragment introduce non-neutralizing epitopes and may also alter the tertiary structure of the RBD. Taken together, our data suggest that the RBD fragment encompassing spike residues 377-588 is a critical neutralizing receptor-binding fragment and an ideal candidate for development of effective MERS vaccines, and that adding non-neutralizing structures to this RBD fragment diminishes its neutralizing potential. Therefore, in viral vaccine design, it is important to identify the most stable and neutralizing viral RBD fragment, while eliminating unnecessary and non-neutralizing structures, as a means of "immunofocusing".
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), an emerging infectious disease caused by MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV), has garnered worldwide attention as a consequence of its continuous spread and pandemic potential, making the development of effective vaccines a high priority. We previously demonstrated that residues 377-588 of MERS-CoV spike (S) protein receptor-binding domain (RBD) is a very promising MERS subunit vaccine candidate, capable of inducing potent neutralization antibody responses. In this study, we sought to identify an adjuvant that optimally enhanced the immunogenicity of S377-588 protein fused with Fc of human IgG (S377-588-Fc). Specifically, we compared several commercially available adjuvants, including Freund's adjuvant, aluminum, Monophosphoryl lipid A, Montanide ISA51 and MF59 with regard to their capacity to enhance the immunogenicity of this subunit vaccine. In the absence of adjuvant, S377-588-Fc alone induced readily detectable neutralizing antibody and T-cell responses in immunized mice. However, incorporating an adjuvant improved its immunogenicity. Particularly, among the aforementioned adjuvants evaluated, MF59 is the most potent as judged by its superior ability to induce the highest titers of IgG, IgG1 and IgG2a subtypes, and neutralizing antibodies. The addition of MF59 significantly augmented the immunogenicity of S377-588-Fc to induce strong IgG and neutralizing antibody responses as well as protection against MERS-CoV infection in mice, suggesting that MF59 is an optimal adjuvant for MERS-CoV RBD-based subunit vaccines.
Project description:Although vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are under development, the antigen epitopes on the virus and their immunogenicity are poorly understood. Here, we simulate the 3D structures and predict the B cell epitopes on the spike (S), envelope (E), membrane (M), and nucleocapsid (N) proteins of SARS-CoV-2 using structure-based approaches and validate epitope immunogenicity by immunizing mice. Almost all 33 predicted epitopes effectively induce antibody production, six of these are immunodominant epitopes in individuals, and 23 are conserved within SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and bat coronavirus RaTG13. We find that the immunodominant epitopes of individuals with domestic (China) SARS-CoV-2 are different from those of individuals with imported (Europe) SARS-CoV-2, which may be caused by mutations on the S (G614D) and N proteins. Importantly, we find several epitopes on the S protein that elicit neutralizing antibodies against D614 and G614 SARS-CoV-2, which can contribute to vaccine design against coronaviruses.
Project description:Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a pandemic involving so far more than 22 million infections and 776,157 deaths. Effective vaccines are urgently needed to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections. No vaccines have yet been approved for licensure by regulatory agencies. Even though host immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infections are beginning to be unravelled, effective clearance of virus will depend on both humoral and cellular immunity. Additionally, the presence of Spike (S)-glycoprotein reactive CD4+ T-cells in the majority of convalescent patients is consistent with its significant role in stimulating B and CD8+ T-cells. The search for immunodominant epitopes relies on experimental evaluation of peptides representing the epitopes from overlapping peptide libraries which can be costly and labor-intensive. Recent advancements in B- and T-cell epitope predictions by bioinformatic analysis have led to epitope identifications. Assessing which peptide epitope can induce potent neutralizing antibodies and robust T-cell responses is a prerequisite for the selection of effective epitopes to be incorporated in peptide-based vaccines. This review discusses the roles of B- and T-cells in SARS-CoV-2 infections and experimental validations for the selection of B-, CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell epitopes which could lead to the construction of a multi-epitope peptide vaccine. Peptide-based vaccines are known for their low immunogenicity which could be overcome by incorporating immunostimulatory adjuvants and nanoparticles such as Poly Lactic-co-Glycolic Acid (PLGA) or chitosan.
Project description:Currently, no approved vaccine is available against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which causes severe respiratory disease. The spike glycoprotein is typically considered a suitable target for MERS-CoV vaccine candidates. A computational strategy can be used to design an antigenic vaccine against a pathogen. Therefore, we used immunoinformatics and computational approaches to design a multi-epitope vaccine that targets the spike glycoprotein of MERS-CoV. After using numerous immunoinformatics tools and applying several immune filters, a poly-epitope vaccine was constructed comprising cytotoxic T-cell lymphocyte (CTL)-, helper T-cell lymphocyte (HTL)-, and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ)-inducing epitopes. In addition, various physicochemical, allergenic, and antigenic profiles were evaluated to confirm the immunogenicity and safety of the vaccine. Molecular interactions, binding affinities, and the thermodynamic stability of the vaccine were examined through molecular docking and dynamic simulation approaches, during which we identified a stable and strong interaction with Toll-like receptors (TLRs). In silico immune simulations were performed to assess the immune-response triggering capabilities of the vaccine. This computational analysis suggested that the proposed vaccine candidate would be structurally stable and capable of generating an effective immune response to combat viral infections; however, experimental evaluations remain necessary to verify the exact safety and immunogenicity profile of this vaccine.
Project description:Background:Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is caused by MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Thus far, MERS outbreaks have been reported from Saudi Arabia (2013 and 2014) and South Korea (2015). No specific vaccine has yet been reported against MERS. Purpose:To address the urgent need for an MERS vaccine, in the present study, we have designed two multi-epitope vaccines (MEVs) against MERS utilizing several in silico methods and tools. Methods:The design of both the multi-epitope vaccines (MEVs) are composed of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) and helper T lymphocyte (HTL) epitopes, screened form thirteen different proteins of MERS-CoV. Both the MEVs also carry potential B-cell linear epitope regions, B-cell discontinuous epitopes as well as interferon-?-inducing epitopes. Human ?-defensin-2 and ?-defensin-3 were used as adjuvants to enhance the immune response of MEVs. To design the MEVs, short peptide molecular linkers were utilized to link screened most potential CTL epitopes, HTL epitopes and the adjuvants. Tertiary models for both the MEVs were generated, refined, and further studied for their molecular interaction with toll-like receptor 3. The cDNAs of both MEVs were generated and analyzed in silico for their expression in a mammalian host cell line (human). Results:Screened CTL and HTL epitopes were found to have high propensity for stable molecular interaction with HLA alleles molecules. CTL epitopes were also found to have favorable molecular interaction within the cavity of transporter associated with antigen processing. The selected CTL and HTL epitopes jointly cover upto 94.0% of worldwide human population. Both the CTL and HTL MEVs molecular models have shown to have stable binding and complex formation propensity with toll-like receptor 3. The cDNA analysis of both the MEVs have shown high expression tendency in mammalian host cell line (human). Conclusion:After multistage in silico analysis, both the MEVs are predicted to elicit humoral as well as cell mediated immune response. Epitopes of the designed MEVs are predicted to cover large human population worldwide. Hence both the designed MEVs could be tried in vivo as potential vaccine candidates against MERS.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has caused fatal infections, some through hospital-acquired transmission, in affected regions since its emergence in 2012. Although the virus is not pandemic among humans, it poses a great threat to public health due to its zoonotic origin. Thus, both preventative and therapeutic countermeasures are urgently needed. In this study, we discovered a panel of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against MERS-CoV, which mapped to a wide range of regions on the spike (S) protein of the virus. In addition to mAbs with neutralizing epitopes located on the receptor-binding domain, one mAb, 5F9, which binds to the N-terminal domain (NTD) of the MERS-CoV S1 subunit, showed efficient neutralizing activity against the wild-type MERS-CoV strain EMC/2012, with a half maximal inhibitory concentration of 0.2??g/mL. We concluded that a novel neutralizing epitope for MERS-CoV also resides on the NTD of the S protein, indicating that the NTD might be important during the viral infection process. Our findings have significant implications for further vaccine design and for the development of prophylactic and therapeutic monoclonal immunotherapies against MERS-CoV infection.
Project description:Vaccine development is essential for pandemic preparedness. We previously conducted a Phase 1 clinical trial of the vector vaccine candidate MVA-MERS-S against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), expressing its full spike glycoprotein (MERS-CoV-S), as a homologous two-dose regimen (Days 0 and 28). Here, we evaluate the safety (primary objective) and immunogenicity (secondary and exploratory objectives: magnitude and characterization of vaccine-induced humoral responses) of a third vaccination with MVA-MERS-S in a subgroup of trial participants one year after primary immunization. MVA-MERS-S booster vaccination is safe and well-tolerated. Both binding and neutralizing anti-MERS-CoV antibody titers increase substantially in all participants and exceed maximum titers observed after primary immunization more than 10-fold. We identify four immunogenic IgG epitopes, located in the receptor-binding domain (RBD, n = 1) and the S2 subunit (n = 3) of MERS-CoV-S. The level of baseline anti-human coronavirus antibody titers does not impact the generation of anti-MERS-CoV antibody responses. Our data support the rationale of a booster vaccination with MVA-MERS-S and encourage further investigation in larger trials. Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT03615911.