Despite the rapid deployment of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants and reports of their immune evasion characteristics have led to an urgent need for novel vaccines that confer potent cross-protective immunity. In this study, we constructed three different SARS-CoV-2 spike S1-conjugated nanoparticle vaccine candidates that exhibited high structural homogeneity and stability. Notably, these vaccines elicited up to 50-times-higher neutralizing antibody titers than the S1 monomer in mice. Crucially, it was found that the S1-conjugated nanoparticle vaccine could elicit comparable levels of neutralizing antibodies against wild-type or emerging variant SARS-CoV-2, with cross-reactivity to SARS-CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the effect of which could be further enhanced using our designed nanoparticles. Our results indicate that the S1-conjugated nanoparticles are promising vaccine candidates with the potential to elicit potent and cross-reactive immunity against not only wild-type SARS-CoV-2, but also its variants of concern, variants of interest, and even other pathogenic betacoronaviruses. IMPORTANCE The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants led to an urgent demand for a broadly effective vaccine against the threat of variant infection. The spike protein S1-based nanoparticle designed in our study could elicit a comprehensive humoral response toward different SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants of interest and will be helpful to combat COVID-19 globally.
Keywords: Omicron; S1; SARS-CoV-2; nanoparticle vaccine; variants of concern.