Receptor-binding domain of SARS-CoV spike protein induces long-term protective immunity in an animal model

Lanying Du, Guangyu Zhao, Yuxian He, Yan Guo, Bo-Jian Zheng, Shibo Jiang, Yusen Zhou
Vaccine 2007 April 12, 25 (15): 2832-8
Development of effective vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is still a priority in prevention of re-emergence of SARS. Our previous studies have shown that the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV spike (S) protein elicits highly potent neutralizing antibody responses in the immunized animals. But it is unknown whether RBD can also induce protective immunity in an animal model, a key aspect for vaccine development. In this study, BALB/c mice were vaccinated intramuscularly (i.m.) with 10microg of RBD-Fc (RBD fused with human IgG1 Fc) and boosted twice at 3-week intervals and one more time at 12th month. Humoral immune responses of vaccinated mice were investigated for up to 12 months at a 1-month interval and the neutralizing titers of produced antibodies were reported at months 0, 3, 6 and 12 post-vaccination. Mice were challenged with the homologous strain of SARS-CoV 5 days after the last boost, and sacrificed 5 days after the challenge. Mouse lung tissues were collected for detection of viral load, virus replication and histopathological effects. Our results showed that RBD-Fc vaccination induced high titer of S-specific antibodies with long-term and potent SARS-CoV neutralizing activity. Four of five vaccinated mice were protected from subsequent SARS-CoV challenge because no significant virus replication, and no obvious histopathological changes were found in the lung tissues of the vaccinated mice challenged with SARS-CoV. Only one vaccinated mouse had mild alveolar damage in the lung tissues. In contrast, high copies of SARS-CoV RNA and virus replication were detected, and pathological changes were observed in the lung tissues of the control mice. In conclusion, our findings suggest that RBD, which can induce protective antibodies to SARS-CoV, may be further developed as a safe and effective SARS subunit vaccine.

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