Immunogenicity and In Vivo Protective Effects of Recombinant Nucleocapsid-Based SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Convacell®

Sevastyan O Rabdano, Ellina A Ruzanova, Iuliia V Pletyukhina, Nikita S Saveliev, Kirill L Kryshen, Anastasiia E Katelnikova, Petr P Beltyukov, Liliya N Fakhretdinova, Ariana S Safi, German O Rudakov, Sergei A Arakelov, Igor V Andreev, Ilya A Kofiadi, Musa R Khaitov, Rudolf Valenta, Daria S Kryuchko, Igor A Berzin, Natalia S Belozerova, Anatoly E Evtushenko, Viktor P TruhinVeronika I Skvortsova

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

3 Citations (Scopus)


The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines which are licensed or under development focus on the spike (S) protein and its receptor binding domain (RBD). However, the S protein shows considerable sequence variations among variants of concern. The aim of this study was to develop and characterize a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine targeting the highly conserved nucleocapsid (N) protein. Recombinant N protein was expressed in Escherichia coli, purified to homogeneity by chromatography and characterized by SDS-PAGE, immunoblotting, mass spectrometry, dynamic light scattering and differential scanning calorimetry. The vaccine, formulated as a squalane-based emulsion, was used to immunize Balb/c mice and NOD SCID gamma (NSG) mice engrafted with human PBMCs, rabbits and marmoset monkeys. Safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine was assessed via ELISA, cytokine titer assays and CFSE dilution assays. The protective effect of the vaccine was studied in SARS-CoV-2-infected Syrian hamsters. Immunization induced sustainable N-specific IgG responses and an N-specific mixed Th1/Th2 cytokine response. In marmoset monkeys, an N-specific CD4+/CD8+ T cell response was observed. Vaccinated Syrian hamsters showed reduced lung histopathology, lower virus proliferation, lower lung weight relative to the body, and faster body weight recovery. Convacell® thus is shown to be effective and may augment the existing armamentarium of vaccines against COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number874
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2023


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