A Novel Single-Stranded RNA-Based Adjuvant Improves the Immunogenicity of the SARS-CoV-2 Recombinant Protein Vaccine
The research and development (R&D) of novel adjuvants is an effective measure for improving the immunogenicity of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) recombinant protein vaccine. Toward this end, we designed a novel single-stranded RNA-based adjuvant, L2, from the SARS-CoV-2 prototype genome. L2 could initiate retinoic acid-inducible gene-I signaling pathways to effectively activate the innate immunity. ZF2001, an aluminum hydroxide (Al) adjuvanted SARS-CoV-2 recombinant receptor binding domain (RBD) subunit vaccine with emergency use authorization in China, was used for comparison. L2, with adjuvant compatibility with RBD, elevated the antibody response to a level more than that achieved with Al, CpG 7909, or poly(I:C) as adjuvants in mice. L2 plus Al with composite adjuvant compatibility with RBD markedly improved the immunogenicity of ZF2001; in particular, neutralizing antibody titers increased by about 44-fold for Omicron, and the combination also induced higher levels of antibodies than CpG 7909/poly(I:C) plus Al in mice. Moreover, L2 and L2 plus Al effectively improved the Th1 immune response, rather than the Th2 immune response. Taken together, L2, used as an adjuvant, enhanced the immune response of the SARS-CoV-2 recombinant RBD protein vaccine in mice. These findings should provide a basis for the R&D of novel RNA-based adjuvants.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2 recombinant protein vaccine; immune response; single-stranded RNA-based adjuvant.