MERS-CoV continues to cause human outbreaks, so far in 27 countries worldwide following the first registered epidemic in Saudi Arabia in 2012. In this study, we produced a nanovaccine based on virus-like particles (VLPs). VLPs are safe vaccine platforms as they lack any replication-competent genetic material, and are used since many years against hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis E virus (HEV) and human papilloma virus (HPV). In order to produce a vaccine that is readily scalable, we genetically fused the receptor-binding motif (RBM) of MERS-CoV spike protein into the surface of cucumber-mosaic virus VLPs. The employed CuMVTT-VLPs represent a new immunologically optimized vaccine platform incorporating a universal T cell epitope derived from tetanus toxin (TT). The resultant vaccine candidate (mCuMVTT-MERS) is a mosaic particle and consists of unmodified wild type monomers and genetically modified monomers displaying RBM, co-assembling within E. coli upon expression. mCuMVTT-MERS vaccine is self-adjuvanted with ssRNA, a TLR7/8 ligand which is spontaneously packaged during the bacterial expression process. The developed vaccine candidate induced high anti-RBD and anti-spike antibodies in a murine model, showing high binding avidity and an ability to completely neutralize MERS-CoV/EMC/2012 isolate, demonstrating the protective potential of the vaccine candidate for dromedaries and humans.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by MRC-HMC (grant 29032016), Qatar National Research Fund (PDRA grant PDRA4-0118-18002) and by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF 310030_185114 and SNF 310030_179165). We would like to thank Prof. Daniel Speiser for his thorough editing of the paper.
© 2021, The Author(s).