Publications by authors named "Lauren Carter"

66 Publications

Engineered SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain improves manufacturability in yeast and immunogenicity in mice.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 09;118(38)

Bioqual, Inc., Rockville, MD 20850.

Global containment of COVID-19 still requires accessible and affordable vaccines for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Recently approved vaccines provide needed interventions, albeit at prices that may limit their global access. Subunit vaccines based on recombinant proteins are suited for large-volume microbial manufacturing to yield billions of doses annually, minimizing their manufacturing cost. These types of vaccines are well-established, proven interventions with multiple safe and efficacious commercial examples. Many vaccine candidates of this type for SARS-CoV-2 rely on sequences containing the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which mediates viral entry to cells via ACE2. Here we report an engineered sequence variant of RBD that exhibits high-yield manufacturability, high-affinity binding to ACE2, and enhanced immunogenicity after a single dose in mice compared to the Wuhan-Hu-1 variant used in current vaccines. Antibodies raised against the engineered protein exhibited heterotypic binding to the RBD from two recently reported SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (501Y.V1/V2). Presentation of the engineered RBD on a designed virus-like particle (VLP) also reduced weight loss in hamsters upon viral challenge.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2106845118DOI Listing
September 2021

Molecular basis of immune evasion by the delta and kappa SARS-CoV-2 variants.

bioRxiv 2021 Aug 12. Epub 2021 Aug 12.

Worldwide SARS-CoV-2 transmission leads to the recurrent emergence of variants, such as the recently described B.1.617.1 (kappa), B.1.617.2 (delta) and B.1.617.2+ (delta+). The B.1.617.2 (delta) variant of concern is causing a new wave of infections in many countries, mostly affecting unvaccinated individuals, and has become globally dominant. We show that these variants dampen the in vitro potency of vaccine-elicited serum neutralizing antibodies and provide a structural framework for describing the impact of individual mutations on immune evasion. Mutations in the B.1.617.1 (kappa) and B.1.617.2 (delta) spike glycoproteins abrogate recognition by several monoclonal antibodies via alteration of key antigenic sites, including an unexpected remodeling of the B.1.617.2 (delta) N-terminal domain. The binding affinity of the B.1.617.1 (kappa) and B.1.617.2 (delta) receptor-binding domain for ACE2 is comparable to the ancestral virus whereas B.1.617.2+ (delta+) exhibits markedly reduced affinity. We describe a previously uncharacterized class of N-terminal domain-directed human neutralizing monoclonal antibodies cross-reacting with several variants of concern, revealing a possible target for vaccine development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.11.455956DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8366796PMC
August 2021

Computational design of a synthetic PD-1 agonist.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 Jul;118(29)

Department of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.

Programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) expressed on activated T cells inhibits T cell function and proliferation to prevent an excessive immune response, and disease can result if this delicate balance is shifted in either direction. Tumor cells often take advantage of this pathway by overexpressing the PD-1 ligand PD-L1 to evade destruction by the immune system. Alternatively, if there is a decrease in function of the PD-1 pathway, unchecked activation of the immune system and autoimmunity can result. Using a combination of computation and experiment, we designed a hyperstable 40-residue miniprotein, PD-MP1, that specifically binds murine and human PD-1 at the PD-L1 interface with a K of ∼100 nM. The apo crystal structure shows that the binder folds as designed with a backbone RMSD of 1.3 Å to the design model. Trimerization of PD-MP1 resulted in a PD-1 agonist that strongly inhibits murine T cell activation. This small, hyperstable PD-1 binding protein was computationally designed with an all-beta interface, and the trimeric agonist could contribute to treatments for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2102164118DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8307378PMC
July 2021

Multivalent designed proteins protect against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.

bioRxiv 2021 Jul 7. Epub 2021 Jul 7.

Escape variants of SARS-CoV-2 are threatening to prolong the COVID-19 pandemic. To address this challenge, we developed multivalent protein-based minibinders as potential prophylactic and therapeutic agents. Homotrimers of single minibinders and fusions of three distinct minibinders were designed to geometrically match the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) trimer architecture and were optimized by cell-free expression and found to exhibit virtually no measurable dissociation upon binding. Cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) showed that these trivalent minibinders engage all three receptor binding domains on a single S trimer. The top candidates neutralize SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern with IC values in the low pM range, resist viral escape, and provide protection in highly vulnerable human ACE2-expressing transgenic mice, both prophylactically and therapeutically. Our integrated workflow promises to accelerate the design of mutationally resilient therapeutics for pandemic preparedness.

One-sentence Summary: We designed, developed, and characterized potent, trivalent miniprotein binders that provide prophylactic and therapeutic protection against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.07.451375DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8282097PMC
July 2021

Stabilization of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Receptor-Binding Domain Using Deep Mutational Scanning and Structure-Based Design.

Front Immunol 2021 29;12:710263. Epub 2021 Jun 29.

Institute for Protein Design, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States.

The unprecedented global demand for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines has demonstrated the need for highly effective vaccine candidates that are thermostable and amenable to large-scale manufacturing. Nanoparticle immunogens presenting the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein (S) in repetitive arrays are being advanced as second-generation vaccine candidates, as they feature robust manufacturing characteristics and have shown promising immunogenicity in preclinical models. Here, we used previously reported deep mutational scanning (DMS) data to guide the design of stabilized variants of the RBD. The selected mutations fill a cavity in the RBD that has been identified as a linoleic acid binding pocket. Screening of several designs led to the selection of two lead candidates that expressed at higher yields than the wild-type RBD. These stabilized RBDs possess enhanced thermal stability and resistance to aggregation, particularly when incorporated into an icosahedral nanoparticle immunogen that maintained its integrity and antigenicity for 28 days at 35-40°C, while corresponding immunogens displaying the wild-type RBD experienced aggregation and loss of antigenicity. The stabilized immunogens preserved the potent immunogenicity of the original nanoparticle immunogen, which is currently being evaluated in a Phase I/II clinical trial. Our findings may improve the scalability and stability of RBD-based coronavirus vaccines in any format and more generally highlight the utility of comprehensive DMS data in guiding vaccine design.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.710263DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8276696PMC
July 2021

SARS-COV-2 spike binding to ACE2 in living cells monitored by TR-FRET.

Cell Chem Biol 2021 Jul 2. Epub 2021 Jul 2.

Université de Paris, Institut Cochin, INSERM, CNRS, 75014 Paris, France. Electronic address:

Targeting the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and human ACE2, its primary cell membrane receptor, is a promising therapeutic strategy to prevent viral entry. Recent in vitro studies revealed that the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein plays a prominent role in ACE2 binding, yet a simple and quantitative assay for monitoring this interaction in a cellular environment is lacking. Here, we developed an RBD-ACE2 binding assay that is based on time-resolved FRET, which reliably monitors the interaction in a physiologically relevant and cellular context. Because it is modular, the assay can monitor the impact of different cellular components, such as heparan sulfate, lipids, and membrane proteins on the RBD-ACE2 interaction and it can be extended to the full-length spike protein. The assay is HTS compatible and can detect small-molecule competitive and allosteric modulators of the RBD-ACE2 interaction with high relevance for SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chembiol.2021.06.008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8249686PMC
July 2021

Qualification of ELISA and neutralization methodologies to measure SARS-CoV-2 humoral immunity using human clinical samples.

bioRxiv 2021 Jul 2. Epub 2021 Jul 2.

In response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic many vaccines have been developed and evaluated in human clinical trials. The humoral immune response magnitude, composition and efficacy of neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 are essential endpoints for these trials. Robust assays that are reproducibly precise, linear, and specific for SARS-CoV-2 antigens would be beneficial for the vaccine pipeline. In this work we describe the methodologies and clinical qualification of three SARS-CoV-2 endpoint assays. We developed and qualified Endpoint titer ELISAs for total IgG, IgG1, IgG3, IgG4, IgM and IgA to evaluate the magnitude of specific responses to the trimeric spike (S) antigen and total IgG specific to the spike receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2. We also qualified a pseudovirus neutralization assay which evaluates functional antibody titers capable of inhibiting the entry and replication of a lentivirus containing the Spike antigen of SARS-CoV-2. To complete the suite of assays we qualified a plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT) methodology using the 2019-nCoV/USA-WA1/2020 isolate of SARS-CoV-2 to assess neutralizing titers of antibodies in plasma from normal healthy donors and convalescent COVID-19 individuals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.02.450915DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8259906PMC
July 2021

Ultrapotent miniproteins targeting the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain protect against infection and disease.

Cell Host Microbe 2021 07 24;29(7):1151-1161.e5. Epub 2021 Jun 24.

Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA; Department of Pathology & Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA; Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA; The Andrew M. and Jane M. Bursky Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA. Electronic address:

Despite the introduction of public health measures and spike protein-based vaccines to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 infections and deaths continue to have a global impact. Previously, we used a structural design approach to develop picomolar range miniproteins targeting the SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domain. Here, we investigated the capacity of modified versions of one lead miniprotein, LCB1, to protect against SARS-CoV-2-mediated lung disease in mice. Systemic administration of LCB1-Fc reduced viral burden, diminished immune cell infiltration and inflammation, and completely prevented lung disease and pathology. A single intranasal dose of LCB1v1.3 reduced SARS-CoV-2 infection in the lung when given as many as 5 days before or 2 days after virus inoculation. Importantly, LCB1v1.3 protected in vivo against a historical strain (WA1/2020), an emerging B.1.1.7 strain, and a strain encoding key E484K and N501Y spike protein substitutions. These data support development of LCB1v1.3 for prevention or treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2021.06.008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8221914PMC
July 2021

Detection of antibodies neutralizing historical and emerging SARS-CoV-2 strains using a thermodynamically coupled de novo biosensor system.

bioRxiv 2021 Jun 22. Epub 2021 Jun 22.

With global vaccination efforts against SARS-CoV-2 underway, there is a need for rapid quantification methods for neutralizing antibodies elicited by vaccination and characterization of their strain dependence. Here, we describe a designed protein biosensor that enables sensitive and rapid detection of neutralizing antibodies against wild type and variant SARS-CoV-2 in serum samples. More generally, our thermodynamic coupling approach can better distinguish sample to sample differences in analyte binding affinity and abundance than traditional competition based assays.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.22.449355DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8240681PMC
June 2021

Transcriptional heterogeneity of stemness phenotypes in the ovarian epithelium.

Commun Biol 2021 05 5;4(1):527. Epub 2021 May 5.

Cancer Therapeutics Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, ON, Canada.

The ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) is a monolayer of epithelial cells surrounding the ovary that ruptures during each ovulation to allow release of the oocyte. This wound is quickly repaired, but mechanisms promoting repair are poorly understood. The contribution of tissue-resident stem cells in the homeostasis of several epithelial tissues is widely accepted, but their involvement in OSE is unclear. We show that traits associated with stem cells can be increased following exposure to the cytokine TGFB1, overexpression of the transcription factor Snai1, or deletion of Brca1. We find that stemness is often linked to mesenchymal-associated gene expression and higher activation of ERK signalling, but is not consistently dependent on their activation. Expression profiles of these populations are extremely context specific, suggesting that stemness may not be associated with a single, distinct population, but rather is a heterogeneous cell state that may emerge from diverse environmental cues. These findings support that the OSE may not require distinct stem cells for long-term maintenance, and may instead achieve this through transient dedifferentiation into a stem-like state.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02045-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8100130PMC
May 2021

Adjuvanting a subunit COVID-19 vaccine to induce protective immunity.

Nature 2021 06 19;594(7862):253-258. Epub 2021 Apr 19.

Tulane National Primate Research Center, Covington, LA, USA.

The development of a portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate the global population remains an urgent public health imperative. Here we demonstrate the capacity of a subunit vaccine, comprising the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor-binding domain displayed on an I53-50 protein nanoparticle scaffold (hereafter designated RBD-NP), to stimulate robust and durable neutralizing-antibody responses and protection against SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus macaques. We evaluated five adjuvants including Essai O/W 1849101, a squalene-in-water emulsion; AS03, an α-tocopherol-containing oil-in-water emulsion; AS37, a Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) agonist adsorbed to alum; CpG1018-alum, a TLR9 agonist formulated in alum; and alum. RBD-NP immunization with AS03, CpG1018-alum, AS37 or alum induced substantial neutralizing-antibody and CD4 T cell responses, and conferred protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in the pharynges, nares and bronchoalveolar lavage. The neutralizing-antibody response to live virus was maintained up to 180 days after vaccination with RBD-NP in AS03 (RBD-NP-AS03), and correlated with protection from infection. RBD-NP immunization cross-neutralized the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant efficiently but showed a reduced response against the B.1.351 variant. RBD-NP-AS03 produced a 4.5-fold reduction in neutralization of B.1.351 whereas the group immunized with RBD-NP-AS37 produced a 16-fold reduction in neutralization of B.1.351, suggesting differences in the breadth of the neutralizing-antibody response induced by these adjuvants. Furthermore, RBD-NP-AS03 was as immunogenic as a prefusion-stabilized spike immunogen (HexaPro) with AS03 adjuvant. These data highlight the efficacy of the adjuvanted RBD-NP vaccine in promoting protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and have led to phase I/II clinical trials of this vaccine (NCT04742738 and NCT04750343).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03530-2DOI Listing
June 2021

Quadrivalent influenza nanoparticle vaccines induce broad protection.

Nature 2021 Apr 24;592(7855):623-628. Epub 2021 Mar 24.

Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.

Influenza vaccines that confer broad and durable protection against diverse viral strains would have a major effect on global health, as they would lessen the need for annual vaccine reformulation and immunization. Here we show that computationally designed, two-component nanoparticle immunogens induce potently neutralizing and broadly protective antibody responses against a wide variety of influenza viruses. The nanoparticle immunogens contain 20 haemagglutinin glycoprotein trimers in an ordered array, and their assembly in vitro enables the precisely controlled co-display of multiple distinct haemagglutinin proteins in defined ratios. Nanoparticle immunogens that co-display the four haemagglutinins of licensed quadrivalent influenza vaccines elicited antibody responses in several animal models against vaccine-matched strains that were equivalent to or better than commercial quadrivalent influenza vaccines, and simultaneously induced broadly protective antibody responses to heterologous viruses by targeting the subdominant yet conserved haemagglutinin stem. The combination of potent receptor-blocking and cross-reactive stem-directed antibodies induced by the nanoparticle immunogens makes them attractive candidates for a supraseasonal influenza vaccine candidate with the potential to replace conventional seasonal vaccines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03365-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8269962PMC
April 2021

Elicitation of broadly protective sarbecovirus immunity by receptor-binding domain nanoparticle vaccines.

bioRxiv 2021 Mar 16. Epub 2021 Mar 16.

Understanding the ability of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine-elicited antibodies to neutralize and protect against emerging variants of concern and other sarbecoviruses is key for guiding vaccine development decisions and public health policies. We show that a clinical stage multivalent SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain nanoparticle vaccine (SARS-CoV-2 RBD-NP) protects mice from SARS-CoV-2-induced disease after a single shot, indicating that the vaccine could allow dose-sparing. SARS-CoV-2 RBD-NP elicits high antibody titers in two non-human primate (NHP) models against multiple distinct RBD antigenic sites known to be recognized by neutralizing antibodies. We benchmarked NHP serum neutralizing activity elicited by RBD-NP against a lead prefusion-stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike immunogen using a panel of single-residue spike mutants detected in clinical isolates as well as the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants of concern. Polyclonal antibodies elicited by both vaccines are resilient to most RBD mutations tested, but the E484K substitution has similar negative consequences for neutralization, and exhibit modest but comparable neutralization breadth against distantly related sarbecoviruses. We demonstrate that mosaic and cocktail sarbecovirus RBD-NPs elicit broad sarbecovirus neutralizing activity, including against the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.351 variant, and protect mice against severe SARS-CoV challenge even in the absence of the SARS-CoV RBD in the vaccine. This study provides proof of principle that sarbecovirus RBD-NPs induce heterotypic protection and enables advancement of broadly protective sarbecovirus vaccines to the clinic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.03.15.435528DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7986998PMC
March 2021

Ultrapotent miniproteins targeting the receptor-binding domain protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection and disease in mice.

bioRxiv 2021 Mar 1. Epub 2021 Mar 1.

Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA.

Despite the introduction of public health measures and spike protein-based vaccines to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 infections and deaths continue to rise. Previously, we used a structural design approach to develop picomolar range miniproteins targeting the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain. Here, we investigated the capacity of modified versions of one lead binder, LCB1, to protect against SARS-CoV-2-mediated lung disease in human ACE2-expressing transgenic mice. Systemic administration of LCB1-Fc reduced viral burden, diminished immune cell infiltration and inflammation, and completely prevented lung disease and pathology. A single intranasal dose of LCB1v1.3 reduced SARS-CoV-2 infection in the lung even when given as many as five days before or two days after virus inoculation. Importantly, LCB1v1.3 protected against a historical strain (WA1/2020), an emerging B.1.1.7 strain, and a strain encoding key E484K and N501Y spike protein substitutions. These data support development of LCB1v1.3 for prevention or treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.03.01.433110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7941621PMC
March 2021

Engineered SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain improves immunogenicity in mice and elicits protective immunity in hamsters.

bioRxiv 2021 Mar 4. Epub 2021 Mar 4.

The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

Global containment of COVID-19 still requires accessible and affordable vaccines for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Recently approved vaccines provide needed interventions, albeit at prices that may limit their global access. Subunit vaccines based on recombinant proteins are suited for large-volume microbial manufacturing to yield billions of doses annually, minimizing their manufacturing costs. These types of vaccines are well-established, proven interventions with multiple safe and efficacious commercial examples. Many vaccine candidates of this type for SARS-CoV-2 rely on sequences containing the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which mediates viral entry to cells via ACE2. Here we report an engineered sequence variant of RBD that exhibits high-yield manufacturability, high-affinity binding to ACE2, and enhanced immunogenicity after a single dose in mice compared to the Wuhan-Hu-1 variant used in current vaccines. Antibodies raised against the engineered protein exhibited heterotypic binding to the RBD from two recently reported SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (501Y.V1/V2). Presentation of the engineered RBD on a designed virus-like particle (VLP) also reduced weight loss in hamsters upon viral challenge.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.03.03.433558DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7941618PMC
March 2021

In silico detection of SARS-CoV-2 specific B-cell epitopes and validation in ELISA for serological diagnosis of COVID-19.

Sci Rep 2021 02 22;11(1):4290. Epub 2021 Feb 22.

Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease (SSGCID), Seattle, WA, USA.

Rapid generation of diagnostics is paramount to understand epidemiology and to control the spread of emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Computational methods to predict serodiagnostic epitopes that are specific for the pathogen could help accelerate the development of new diagnostics. A systematic survey of 27 SARS-CoV-2 proteins was conducted to assess whether existing B-cell epitope prediction methods, combined with comprehensive mining of sequence databases and structural data, could predict whether a particular protein would be suitable for serodiagnosis. Nine of the predictions were validated with recombinant SARS-CoV-2 proteins in the ELISA format using plasma and sera from patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection, and a further 11 predictions were compared to the recent literature. Results appeared to be in agreement with 12 of the predictions, in disagreement with 3, while a further 5 were deemed inconclusive. We showed that two of our top five candidates, the N-terminal fragment of the nucleoprotein and the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein, have the highest sensitivity and specificity and signal-to-noise ratio for detecting COVID-19 sera/plasma by ELISA. Mixing the two antigens together for coating ELISA plates led to a sensitivity of 94% (N = 80 samples from persons with RT-PCR confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection), and a specificity of 97.2% (N = 106 control samples).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-83730-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7900118PMC
February 2021

SPEN haploinsufficiency causes a neurodevelopmental disorder overlapping proximal 1p36 deletion syndrome with an episignature of X chromosomes in females.

Am J Hum Genet 2021 03 16;108(3):502-516. Epub 2021 Feb 16.

Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA.

Deletion 1p36 (del1p36) syndrome is the most common human disorder resulting from a terminal autosomal deletion. This condition is molecularly and clinically heterogeneous. Deletions involving two non-overlapping regions, known as the distal (telomeric) and proximal (centromeric) critical regions, are sufficient to cause the majority of the recurrent clinical features, although with different facial features and dysmorphisms. SPEN encodes a transcriptional repressor commonly deleted in proximal del1p36 syndrome and is located centromeric to the proximal 1p36 critical region. Here, we used clinical data from 34 individuals with truncating variants in SPEN to define a neurodevelopmental disorder presenting with features that overlap considerably with those of proximal del1p36 syndrome. The clinical profile of this disease includes developmental delay/intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, aggressive behavior, attention deficit disorder, hypotonia, brain and spine anomalies, congenital heart defects, high/narrow palate, facial dysmorphisms, and obesity/increased BMI, especially in females. SPEN also emerges as a relevant gene for del1p36 syndrome by co-expression analyses. Finally, we show that haploinsufficiency of SPEN is associated with a distinctive DNA methylation episignature of the X chromosome in affected females, providing further evidence of a specific contribution of the protein to the epigenetic control of this chromosome, and a paradigm of an X chromosome-specific episignature that classifies syndromic traits. We conclude that SPEN is required for multiple developmental processes and SPEN haploinsufficiency is a major contributor to a disorder associated with deletions centromeric to the previously established 1p36 critical regions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.01.015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8008487PMC
March 2021

Adjuvanting a subunit SARS-CoV-2 nanoparticle vaccine to induce protective immunity in non-human primates.

bioRxiv 2021 Feb 11. Epub 2021 Feb 11.

The development of a portfolio of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines to vaccinate the global population remains an urgent public health imperative. Here, we demonstrate the capacity of a subunit vaccine under clinical development, comprising the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein receptor-binding domain displayed on a two-component protein nanoparticle (RBD-NP), to stimulate robust and durable neutralizing antibody (nAb) responses and protection against SARS-CoV-2 in non-human primates. We evaluated five different adjuvants combined with RBD-NP including Essai O/W 1849101, a squalene-in-water emulsion; AS03, an alpha-tocopherol-containing squalene-based oil-in-water emulsion used in pandemic influenza vaccines; AS37, a TLR-7 agonist adsorbed to Alum; CpG 1018-Alum (CpG-Alum), a TLR-9 agonist formulated in Alum; or Alum, the most widely used adjuvant. All five adjuvants induced substantial nAb and CD4 T cell responses after two consecutive immunizations. Durable nAb responses were evaluated for RBD-NP/AS03 immunization and the live-virus nAb response was durably maintained up to 154 days post-vaccination. AS03, CpG-Alum, AS37 and Alum groups conferred significant protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in the pharynges, nares and in the bronchoalveolar lavage. The nAb titers were highly correlated with protection against infection. Furthermore, RBD-NP when used in conjunction with AS03 was as potent as the prefusion stabilized Spike immunogen, HexaPro. Taken together, these data highlight the efficacy of the RBD-NP formulated with clinically relevant adjuvants in promoting robust immunity against SARS-CoV-2 in non-human primates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.10.430696DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7885918PMC
February 2021

Incorporation of sensing modalities into de novo designed fluorescence-activating proteins.

Nat Commun 2021 02 8;12(1):856. Epub 2021 Feb 8.

Department of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.

Through the efforts of many groups, a wide range of fluorescent protein reporters and sensors based on green fluorescent protein and its relatives have been engineered in recent years. Here we explore the incorporation of sensing modalities into de novo designed fluorescence-activating proteins, called mini-fluorescence-activating proteins (mFAPs), that bind and stabilize the fluorescent cis-planar state of the fluorogenic compound DFHBI. We show through further design that the fluorescence intensity and specificity of mFAPs for different chromophores can be tuned, and the fluorescence made sensitive to pH and Ca for real-time fluorescence reporting. Bipartite split mFAPs enable real-time monitoring of protein-protein association and (unlike widely used split GFP reporter systems) are fully reversible, allowing direct readout of association and dissociation events. The relative ease with which sensing modalities can be incorporated and advantages in smaller size and photostability make de novo designed fluorescence-activating proteins attractive candidates for optical sensor engineering.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-18911-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7870846PMC
February 2021

F-domain valency determines outcome of signaling through the angiopoietin pathway.

bioRxiv 2020 Dec 24. Epub 2020 Dec 24.

Angiopoietin 1 and 2 (Ang1 and Ang2) modulate angiogenesis and vascular homeostasis through engagement of their very similar F-domain modules with the Tie2 receptor tyrosine kinase on endothelial cells. Despite this similarity in the underlying receptor binding interaction, the two angiopoietins have opposite effects: Ang1 induces phosphorylation of protein kinase B (AKT), strengthens cell-cell junctions and enhances endothelial cell survival while Ang2 antagonizes these effects . To investigate the molecular basis for the opposing effects, we examined the protein kinase activation and morphological phenotypes produced by a series of computationally designed protein scaffolds presenting the Ang1 F-domain in a wide range of valencies and geometries. We find two broad phenotypic classes distinguished by the number of presented F-domains: scaffolds presenting 4 F-domains have Ang2 like activity, upregulating pFAK and pERK but not pAKT, and failing to induce cell migration and tube formation, while scaffolds presenting 6 or more F-domains have Ang1 like activity, upregulating pAKT and inducing migration and tube formation. The scaffolds with 8 or more F-domains display superagonist activity, producing stronger phenotypes at lower concentrations than Ang1. When examined , superagonist icosahedral self-assembling nanoparticles caused significant revascularization in hemorrhagic brains after a controlled cortical impact injury.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.19.304188DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7836102PMC
December 2020

Functional SARS-CoV-2-Specific Immune Memory Persists after Mild COVID-19.

Cell 2021 01 23;184(1):169-183.e17. Epub 2020 Nov 23.

Department of Immunology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98109, USA. Electronic address:

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus is causing a global pandemic, and cases continue to rise. Most infected individuals experience mildly symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but it is unknown whether this can induce persistent immune memory that could contribute to immunity. We performed a longitudinal assessment of individuals recovered from mild COVID-19 to determine whether they develop and sustain multifaceted SARS-CoV-2-specific immunological memory. Recovered individuals developed SARS-CoV-2-specific immunoglobulin (IgG) antibodies, neutralizing plasma, and memory B and memory T cells that persisted for at least 3 months. Our data further reveal that SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG memory B cells increased over time. Additionally, SARS-CoV-2-specific memory lymphocytes exhibited characteristics associated with potent antiviral function: memory T cells secreted cytokines and expanded upon antigen re-encounter, whereas memory B cells expressed receptors capable of neutralizing virus when expressed as monoclonal antibodies. Therefore, mild COVID-19 elicits memory lymphocytes that persist and display functional hallmarks of antiviral immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.029DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7682481PMC
January 2021

Elicitation of Potent Neutralizing Antibody Responses by Designed Protein Nanoparticle Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2.

Cell 2020 11 31;183(5):1367-1382.e17. Epub 2020 Oct 31.

Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA.

A safe, effective, and scalable vaccine is needed to halt the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We describe the structure-based design of self-assembling protein nanoparticle immunogens that elicit potent and protective antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 in mice. The nanoparticle vaccines display 60 SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domains (RBDs) in a highly immunogenic array and induce neutralizing antibody titers 10-fold higher than the prefusion-stabilized spike despite a 5-fold lower dose. Antibodies elicited by the RBD nanoparticles target multiple distinct epitopes, suggesting they may not be easily susceptible to escape mutations, and exhibit a lower binding:neutralizing ratio than convalescent human sera, which may minimize the risk of vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease. The high yield and stability of the assembled nanoparticles suggest that manufacture of the nanoparticle vaccines will be highly scalable. These results highlight the utility of robust antigen display platforms and have launched cGMP manufacturing efforts to advance the SARS-CoV-2-RBD nanoparticle vaccine into the clinic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.043DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7604136PMC
November 2020

De novo design of picomolar SARS-CoV-2 miniprotein inhibitors.

Science 2020 10 9;370(6515):426-431. Epub 2020 Sep 9.

Department of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.

Targeting the interaction between the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein and the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor is a promising therapeutic strategy. We designed inhibitors using two de novo design approaches. Computer-generated scaffolds were either built around an ACE2 helix that interacts with the spike receptor binding domain (RBD) or docked against the RBD to identify new binding modes, and their amino acid sequences were designed to optimize target binding, folding, and stability. Ten designs bound the RBD, with affinities ranging from 100 picomolar to 10 nanomolar, and blocked SARS-CoV-2 infection of Vero E6 cells with median inhibitory concentration (IC) values between 24 picomolar and 35 nanomolar. The most potent, with new binding modes, are 56- and 64-residue proteins (IC ~ 0.16 nanograms per milliliter). Cryo-electron microscopy structures of these minibinders in complex with the SARS-CoV-2 spike ectodomain trimer with all three RBDs bound are nearly identical to the computational models. These hyperstable minibinders provide starting points for SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.abd9909DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7857403PMC
October 2020

Serological identification of SARS-CoV-2 infections among children visiting a hospital during the initial Seattle outbreak.

Nat Commun 2020 09 1;11(1):4378. Epub 2020 Sep 1.

Basic Sciences and Computational Biology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, 98109, USA.

Children are strikingly underrepresented in COVID-19 case counts. In the United States, children represent 22% of the population but only 1.7% of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases as of April 2, 2020. One possibility is that symptom-based viral testing is less likely to identify infected children, since they often experience milder disease than adults. Here, to better assess the frequency of pediatric SARS-CoV-2 infection, we serologically screen 1,775 residual samples from Seattle Children's Hospital collected from 1,076 children seeking medical care during March and April of 2020. Only one child was seropositive in March, but seven were seropositive in April for a period seroprevalence of ≈1%. Most seropositive children (6/8) were not suspected of having had COVID-19. The sera of seropositive children have neutralizing activity, including one that neutralized at a dilution > 1:18,000. Therefore, an increasing number of children seeking medical care were infected by SARS-CoV-2 during the early Seattle outbreak despite few positive viral tests.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-18178-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7463158PMC
September 2020

An enumerative algorithm for de novo design of proteins with diverse pocket structures.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 09 24;117(36):22135-22145. Epub 2020 Aug 24.

Institute for Protein Design, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195;

To create new enzymes and biosensors from scratch, precise control over the structure of small-molecule binding sites is of paramount importance, but systematically designing arbitrary protein pocket shapes and sizes remains an outstanding challenge. Using the NTF2-like structural superfamily as a model system, we developed an enumerative algorithm for creating a virtually unlimited number of de novo proteins supporting diverse pocket structures. The enumerative algorithm was tested and refined through feedback from two rounds of large-scale experimental testing, involving in total the assembly of synthetic genes encoding 7,896 designs and assessment of their stability on yeast cell surface, detailed biophysical characterization of 64 designs, and crystal structures of 5 designs. The refined algorithm generates proteins that remain folded at high temperatures and exhibit more pocket diversity than naturally occurring NTF2-like proteins. We expect this approach to transform the design of small-molecule sensors and enzymes by enabling the creation of binding and active site geometries much more optimal for specific design challenges than is accessible by repurposing the limited number of naturally occurring NTF2-like proteins.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2005412117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7486743PMC
September 2020

Functional SARS-CoV-2-specific immune memory persists after mild COVID-19.

Res Sq 2020 Aug 13. Epub 2020 Aug 13.

Department of Immunology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA.

The recently emerged SARS-CoV-2 virus is currently causing a global pandemic and cases continue to rise. The majority of infected individuals experience mildly symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but it is unknown whether this can induce persistent immune memory that might contribute to herd immunity. Thus, we performed a longitudinal assessment of individuals recovered from mildly symptomatic COVID-19 to determine if they develop and sustain immunological memory against the virus. We found that recovered individuals developed SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibody and neutralizing plasma, as well as virus-specific memory B and T cells that not only persisted, but in some cases increased numerically over three months following symptom onset. Furthermore, the SARS-CoV-2-specific memory lymphocytes exhibited characteristics associated with potent antiviral immunity: memory T cells secreted IFN-γ and expanded upon antigen re-encounter, while memory B cells expressed receptors capable of neutralizing virus when expressed as antibodies. These findings demonstrate that mild COVID-19 elicits memory lymphocytes that persist and display functional hallmarks associated with antiviral protective immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-57112/v1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7430600PMC
August 2020

Functional SARS-CoV-2-specific immune memory persists after mild COVID-19.

medRxiv 2020 Aug 15. Epub 2020 Aug 15.

The recently emerged SARS-CoV-2 virus is currently causing a global pandemic and cases continue to rise. The majority of infected individuals experience mildly symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but it is unknown whether this can induce persistent immune memory that might contribute to herd immunity. Thus, we performed a longitudinal assessment of individuals recovered from mildly symptomatic COVID-19 to determine if they develop and sustain immunological memory against the virus. We found that recovered individuals developed SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibody and neutralizing plasma, as well as virus-specific memory B and T cells that not only persisted, but in some cases increased numerically over three months following symptom onset. Furthermore, the SARS-CoV-2-specific memory lymphocytes exhibited characteristics associated with potent antiviral immunity: memory T cells secreted IFN-γ and expanded upon antigen re-encounter, while memory B cells expressed receptors capable of neutralizing virus when expressed as antibodies. These findings demonstrate that mild COVID-19 elicits memory lymphocytes that persist and display functional hallmarks associated with antiviral protective immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.11.20171843DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7430599PMC
August 2020

Elicitation of potent neutralizing antibody responses by designed protein nanoparticle vaccines for SARS-CoV-2.

bioRxiv 2020 Aug 12. Epub 2020 Aug 12.

Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.

A safe, effective, and scalable vaccine is urgently needed to halt the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Here, we describe the structure-based design of self-assembling protein nanoparticle immunogens that elicit potent and protective antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 in mice. The nanoparticle vaccines display 60 copies of the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein receptor-binding domain (RBD) in a highly immunogenic array and induce neutralizing antibody titers roughly ten-fold higher than the prefusion-stabilized S ectodomain trimer despite a more than five-fold lower dose. Antibodies elicited by the nanoparticle immunogens target multiple distinct epitopes on the RBD, suggesting that they may not be easily susceptible to escape mutations, and exhibit a significantly lower binding:neutralizing ratio than convalescent human sera, which may minimize the risk of vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease. The high yield and stability of the protein components and assembled nanoparticles, especially compared to the SARS-CoV-2 prefusion-stabilized S trimer, suggest that manufacture of the nanoparticle vaccines will be highly scalable. These results highlight the utility of robust antigen display platforms for inducing potent neutralizing antibody responses and have launched cGMP manufacturing efforts to advance the lead RBD nanoparticle vaccine into the clinic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.11.247395DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7430571PMC
August 2020

De novo design of picomolar SARS-CoV-2 miniprotein inhibitors.

bioRxiv 2020 Aug 3. Epub 2020 Aug 3.

We used two approaches to design proteins with shape and chemical complementarity to the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein near the binding site for the human ACE2 receptor. Scaffolds were built around an ACE2 helix that interacts with the RBD, or de novo designed scaffolds were docked against the RBD to identify new binding modes. In both cases, designed sequences were optimized first in silico and then experimentally for target binding, folding and stability. Nine designs bound the RBD with affinities ranging from 100pM to 10nM, and blocked bona fide SARS-CoV-2 infection of Vero E6 cells with IC values ranging from 35 pM to 35 nM; the most potent of these - 56 and 64 residue hyperstable proteins made using the second approach - are roughly six times more potent on a per mass basis (IC ~ 0.23 ng/ml) than the best monoclonal antibodies reported thus far. Cryo-electron microscopy structures of the SARS-CoV-2 spike ectodomain trimer in complex with the two most potent minibinders show that the structures of the designs and their binding interactions with the RBD are nearly identical to the computational models, and that all three RBDs in a single Spike protein can be engaged simultaneously. These hyperstable minibinders provide promising starting points for new SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics, and illustrate the power of computational protein design for rapidly generating potential therapeutic candidates against pandemic threats.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.03.234914DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7418719PMC
August 2020

Non-canonical WNT5a regulates Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in the mouse ovarian surface epithelium.

Sci Rep 2020 06 16;10(1):9695. Epub 2020 Jun 16.

Cancer Therapeutics Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

The ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) is a monolayer that covers the ovarian surface and is involved in ovulation by rupturing and enabling release of a mature oocyte and by repairing the wound after ovulation. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a mechanism that may promote wound healing after ovulation. While this process is poorly understood in the OSE, in other tissues wound repair is known to be under the control of the local microenvironment and different growth factors such as the WNT signaling pathway. Among WNT family members, WNT4 and WNT5a are expressed in the OSE and are critical for the ovulatory process. The objective of this study was to determine the potential roles of WNT4 and WNT5a in regulating the OSE layer. Using primary cultures of mouse OSE cells, we found WNT5a, but not WNT4, promotes EMT through a non-canonical Ca-dependent pathway, up-regulating the expression of Vimentin and CD44, enhancing cell migration, and inhibiting the CTNNB1 pathway and proliferation. We conclude that WNT5a is a stimulator of the EMT in OSE cells, and acts by suppressing canonical WNT signaling activity and inducing the non-canonical Ca pathway.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-66559-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7298016PMC
June 2020
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