Vaccine based on folded receptor binding domain-PreS fusion protein with potential to induce sterilizing immunity to SARS-CoV-2 variants

Pia Gattinger, Bernhard Kratzer, Inna Tulaeva, Katarzyna Niespodziana, Anna Ohradanova-Repic, Laura Gebetsberger, Kristina Borochova, Erika Garner-Spitzer, Doris Trapin, Gerhard Hofer, Walter Keller, Isabella Baumgartner, Ivan Tancevski, Musa Khaitov, Alexander Karaulov, Hannes Stockinger, Ursula Wiedermann, Winfried F Pickl, Rudolf Valenta

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

15 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. One possibility to control the pandemic is to induce sterilizing immunity through the induction and maintenance of neutralizing antibodies preventing SARS-CoV-2 from entering human cells to replicate in.

METHODS: We report the construction and in vitro and in vivo characterization of a SARS-CoV-2 subunit vaccine (PreS-RBD) based on a structurally folded recombinant fusion protein consisting of two SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein receptor-binding domains (RBD) fused to the N- and C-terminus of hepatitis B virus (HBV) surface antigen PreS to enable the two unrelated proteins serving as immunologic carriers for each other.

RESULTS: PreS-RBD, but not RBD alone, induced a robust and uniform RBD-specific IgG response in rabbits. Currently available genetic SARS-CoV-2 vaccines induce mainly transient IgG1 responses in vaccinated subjects whereas the PreS-RBD vaccine induced RBD-specific IgG antibodies consisting of an early IgG1 and sustained IgG4 antibody response in a SARS-CoV-2 naive subject. PreS-RBD-specific IgG antibodies were detected in serum and mucosal secretions, reacted with SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the omicron variant of concern and the HBV receptor-binding sites on PreS of currently known HBV genotypes. PreS-RBD-specific antibodies of the immunized subject more potently inhibited the interaction of RBD with its human receptor ACE2 and their virus-neutralizing titers (VNTs) were higher than median VNTs in a random sample of healthy subjects fully immunized with registered SARS-CoV-2 vaccines or in COVID-19 convalescent subjects.

CONCLUSION: The PreS-RBD vaccine has the potential to serve as a combination vaccine for inducing sterilizing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and HBV by stopping viral replication through the inhibition of cellular virus entry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2431-2445
Number of pages15
JournalAllergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number8
Early online date31 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology
  • COVID-19/prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Pandemics/prevention & control
  • Rabbits
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology


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