In this study, we showed that a codon optimized version of the spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 can migrate to the cell membrane. However, efficient production of Moloney murine leukemia (MLV) infectious viral particles was only achieved with stable expression of a shorter S version in C-terminal (ΔS) in MLV Gag-pol expressing cells. As compared to transient transfections, this platform generated viruses with a 1000-fold higher titer. ΔS was 15-times more efficiently incorporated into VLPs as compared to S, and that was not due to steric interference between the cytoplasmic tail and the MLV capsid, as similar differences were also observed with extracellular vesicles. The amount of ΔS incorporated into VLPs released from producer cells was high and estimated at 1.25 μg/mL S2 equivalent (S is comprised of S1 and S2). The resulting VLPs could potentially be used alone or as a boost of other immunization strategies for COVID-19.
Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Moloney; Retrovirus; SARS-CoV-2; VLP; Vaccine; Virus-like particle.
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