Immunogenicity of prime-boost protein subunit vaccine strategies against SARS-CoV-2 in mice and macaques

Hyon Xhi Tan, Jennifer A. Juno, Wen Shi Lee, Isaac Barber-Axthelm, Hannah G. Kelly, Kathleen M. Wragg, Robyn Esterbauer, Thakshila Amarasena, Francesca L. Mordant, Kanta Subbarao, Stephen J. Kent, Adam K. Wheatley

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SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are advancing into human clinical trials, with emphasis on eliciting high titres of neutralising antibodies against the viral spike (S). However, the merits of broadly targeting S versus focusing antibody onto the smaller receptor binding domain (RBD) are unclear. Here we assess prototypic S and RBD subunit vaccines in homologous or heterologous prime-boost regimens in mice and non-human primates. We find S is highly immunogenic in mice, while the comparatively poor immunogenicity of RBD is associated with limiting germinal centre and T follicular helper cell activity. Boosting S-primed mice with either S or RBD significantly augments neutralising titres, with RBD-focussing driving moderate improvement in serum neutralisation. In contrast, both S and RBD vaccines are comparably immunogenic in macaques, eliciting serological neutralising activity that generally exceed levels in convalescent humans. These studies confirm recombinant S proteins as promising vaccine candidates and highlight multiple pathways to achieving potent serological neutralisation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1403
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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