Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV-2 has now spread worldwide to infect over 110 million people, with approximately 2.5 million reported deaths. A safe and effective vaccine remains urgently needed.
Method: We constructed three variants of the recombinant receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein (residues 331-549) in yeast as follows: (1) a "wild type" RBD (RBD219-WT), (2) a deglycosylated form (RBD219-N1) by deleting the first N-glycosylation site, and (3) a combined deglycosylated and cysteine-mutagenized form (C538A-mutated variant (RBD219-N1C1)). We compared the expression yields, biophysical characteristics, and functionality of the proteins produced from these constructs.
Results and conclusions: These three recombinant RBDs showed similar secondary and tertiary structure thermal stability and had the same affinity to their receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2), suggesting that the selected deletion or mutations did not cause any significant structural changes or alteration of function. However, RBD219-N1C1 had a higher fermentation yield, was easier to purify, was not hyperglycosylated, and had a lower tendency to form oligomers, and thus was selected for further vaccine development and evaluation.
General significance: By genetic modification, we were able to design a better-controlled and more stable vaccine candidate, which is an essential and important criterion for any process and manufacturing of biologics or drugs for human use.
Keywords: Biophysical characterization; Biotechnology; Coronavirus; P. pastoris.
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