To read the file of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.
Growing evidence points to the protective role of T cells against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), motivating the development of vaccines that can elicit a robust and protective T cell response. However, the design of such vaccines requires an understanding of the landscape of T cell epitopes of SARS-CoV-2, which is largely unknown. Due to the challenges of identifying epitopes experimentally, many studies have proposed the use of in silico methods. Here, we present a review of the in silico methods that have been used for the prediction of SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes. These methods employ a diverse set of technical approaches, often rooted in machine learning. A performance comparison is provided based on the ability to identify a specific set of known immunogenic epitopes that have been determined experimentally to be targeted by T cells in convalescent COVID-19 patients, shedding light into the relative performance merits of the different in silico methods. The review also puts forward perspectives for future research directions.
To read the file of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.
... Being a time-saving technology, it is used to discover the candidate epitopes for efficient vaccine development against SARS-CoV-2 . Recently, Sohail et al. compared the 65 different studies which reported candidate epitopes using different approaches to design an effective vaccine against COVID-19 . They stated that the majority (>95%) of the experimentally determined epitopes for HLA-A*02:01, were identical to the epitopes predicted by immunoinformatics studies, which highlighted the importance and accuracy of immunoinformatics methods . ...
... Recently, Sohail et al. compared the 65 different studies which reported candidate epitopes using different approaches to design an effective vaccine against COVID-19 . They stated that the majority (>95%) of the experimentally determined epitopes for HLA-A*02:01, were identical to the epitopes predicted by immunoinformatics studies, which highlighted the importance and accuracy of immunoinformatics methods . Immunoinformatics approaches are also being used in combination with the subtractive genomics approach to identify the potential epitopes from most virulent proteins of SARS-CoV-2 to develop multi -epitope subunit vaccines . ...
Immunoinformatics is currently an emerging field that has accelerated
immunological research to a great extent. It is playing a significant role in antigen
identification, immunodiagnostic development, and vaccine design. The arrival of
genome sequencing with recent advancements in immunoinformatics has provided a lot
of data that can be annotated using databases and tools to reduce the cost required for
antibody and vaccine development, ultimately saving time, cost, and resources. The
selection and identification of immunogenic regions from the pathogen genomes by
computational methods play an important role in devising new hypotheses by a
comprehensive examination of immunologic data composite, which is otherwise
impossible to achieve by using traditional methods alone. Presently, many epitopebased
vaccines, especially multi-epitope vaccines designed employing
immunoinformatics approaches, are successfully trailed and being developed against
pathogens. In this chapter, we provide an outline of the recent progress in the field of
vaccinology and immunoinformatics, enlisted recent tools and databases available for
epitopes prediction, validation, and vaccine design, and give a brief description of the
role of immunoinformatics in vaccine design against recent COVID-19.
... Coronaviruses, including the newly discovered SARS-CoV-2, are positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses of the family Coronaviridae, causing respiratory and intestinal infections in animals and humans (Cui et al., 2019;Ahmed et al., 2020). Notably, clinical signs of SARS-CoV-2 infection are very non-specific, such as respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and pneumonia (Chen et al., 2020). ...
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the causative agent of a pandemic of acute respiratory disease in humans. This pandemic has now spread worldwide and caused more than 2,000,000 deaths by 15 January 2021. The complexity and the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 make it difficult to control the disease. Sequence analysis on some open reading frames (ORFs) of a SARS-CoV-2 virus strain isolated in Vietnam in February 2020 (SARS-CoV-2/NIHE/human/2020/VIE strain) revealed some single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that only appeared in the Vietnamese strain in comparison to those of the isolates in other countries, including: (1) a change in ORF8-Nucleocapsid (accession number MT127114.1) at nucleotide (nt) 691 (CTC in SARS-CoV-2/NIHE/human/2020/VIE strain, TTC in all other isolates) but it does not change the encoded amino acid, (2) ORF3a-EM-ORF6-ORF7a region (accession number MT127115.1) has four-point changes, three of which lead to changes in the amino acid sequences, being nt 479 (GTA encoding Valine changed into TTA encoding Leucine), nt 575 (CGC encoding Arginine changed to GGC encoding Glycine) in the
M gene, and nt 1126 (GTG encoding Valine changed to GAG encoding Glutamic acid) in ORF6. Taken together, the results provided useful information for the SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic kit and vaccine development.
... Coronaviruses, including the newly discovered SARS-CoV-2, are positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses of the family Coronaviridae, causing respiratory and intestinal infections in animals and humans (Cui et al., 2019;Ahmed et al., 2020). Notably, clinical signs of SARS-CoV-2 infection are very non-specific, such as respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and pneumonia (Chen et al., 2020). ...
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the causative agent of a pandemic of acute respiratory disease in humans. This pandemic has now spread worldwide and caused more than 2,000,000 deaths by 15 January 2021. The complexity and the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 make it difficult to control the disease. Sequence analysis on some open reading frames (ORFs) of a SARS-CoV-2 virus strain isolated in Vietnam in February 2020 (SARS-CoV-2/NIHE/human/2020/VIE strain) revealed some single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that only appeared in the Vietnamese strain in comparison to those of the isolates in other countries, including: (1) a change in ORF8-Nucleocapsid (accession number MT127114.1) at nucleotide (nt) 691 (CTC in SARS-CoV-2/NIHE/human/2020/VIE strain, TTC in all other isolates) but it does not change the encoded amino acid, (2) ORF3a-EM-ORF6-ORF7a region (accession number MT127115.1) has four-point changes, three of which lead to changes in the amino acid sequences, being nt 479 (GTA encoding Valine changed into TTA encoding Leucine), nt 575 (CGC encoding Arginine changed to GGC encoding Glycine) in the M gene, and nt 1126 (GTG encoding Valine changed to GAG encoding Glutamic acid) in ORF6. Taken together, the results provided useful information for the SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic kit and vaccine development.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) is a significant threat to global health security. Till date, no completely effective drug or vaccine is available to cure COVID-19. Therefore, an effective vaccine against SARS-COV-2 is crucially needed. This study was conducted to design an effective multiepitope based vaccine (MEV) against SARS-COV-2. Seven highly antigenic proteins of SARS-COV-2 were selected as targets and different epitopes (B-cell and T-cell) were predicted. Highly antigenic and overlapping epitopes were shortlisted. Selected epitopes indicated significant interactions with the HLA-binding alleles and 99.93% coverage of the world’s population. Hence, 505 amino acids long MEV was designed by connecting 16 MHC class I and eleven MHC class II epitopes with suitable linkers and adjuvant. MEV construct was non-allergenic, antigenic, stable and flexible. Furthermore, molecular docking followed by molecular dynamics (MD) simulation analyses, demonstrated a stable and strong binding affinity of MEV with human pathogenic toll-like receptors (TLR), TLR3 and TLR8. Finally, MEV codons were optimized for its in silico cloning into Escherichia coli K-12 system, to ensure its increased expression. Designed MEV in present study could be a potential candidate for further vaccine production process against COVID-19. However, to ensure its safety and immunogenic profile, the proposed MEV needs to be experimentally validated.
T cell immunity is central for the control of viral infections. To characterize T cell immunity, but also for the development of vaccines, identification of exact viral T cell epitopes is fundamental. Here we identify and characterize multiple dominant and subdominant SARS-CoV-2 HLA class I and HLA-DR peptides as potential T cell epitopes in COVID-19 convalescent and unexposed individuals. SARS-CoV-2-specific peptides enabled detection of post-infectious T cell immunity, even in seronegative convalescent individuals. Cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 peptides revealed pre-existing T cell responses in 81% of unexposed individuals and validated similarity with common cold coronaviruses, providing a functional basis for heterologous immunity in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Diversity of SARS-CoV-2 T cell responses was associated with mild symptoms of COVID-19, providing evidence that immunity requires recognition of multiple epitopes. Together, the proposed SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes enable identification of heterologous and post-infectious T cell immunity and facilitate development of diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic measures for COVID-19.
Despite the success of vaccination to greatly mitigate or eliminate threat of diseases caused by pathogens, there are still known diseases and emerging pathogens for which the development of successful vaccines against them is inherently difficult. In addition, vaccine development for people with compromised immunity and other pre-existing medical conditions has remained a major challenge. Besides the traditional inactivated or live attenuated, virus-vectored and subunit vaccines, emerging non-viral vaccine technologies, such as viral-like particle and nanoparticle vaccines, DNA/RNA vaccines, and rational vaccine design, offer innovative approaches to address existing challenges of vaccine development. They have also significantly advanced our understanding of vaccine immunology and can guide future vaccine development for many diseases, including rapidly emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, and diseases that have not traditionally been addressed by vaccination, such as cancers and substance abuse. This review provides an integrative discussion of new non-viral vaccine development technologies and their use to address the most fundamental and ongoing challenges of vaccine development.
Dengue virus (DENV)-associated disease is a growing threat to public health across the globe. Co-circulating as four different serotypes, DENV poses a unique challenge for vaccine design as immunity to one serotype predisposes a person to severe and potentially lethal disease upon infection from other serotypes. Recent experimental studies suggest that an effective vaccine against DENV should elicit a strong T cell response against all serotypes, which could be achieved by directing T cell responses toward cross-serotypically conserved epitopes while avoiding serotype-specific ones. Here, we used experimentally-determined DENV T cell epitopes and patient-derived DENV sequences to assess the cross-serotypic variability of the epitopes. We reveal a distinct near-binary pattern of epitope conservation across serotypes for a large number of DENV epitopes. Based on the conservation profile, we identify a set of 55 epitopes that are highly conserved in at least 3 serotypes. Most of the highly conserved epitopes lie in functionally important regions of DENV non-structural proteins. By considering the global distribution of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles associated with these DENV epitopes, we identify a potentially robust subset of HLA class I and class II restricted epitopes that can serve as targets for a universal T cell-based vaccine against DENV while covering ~99% of the global population.
Limited knowledge is available on the relationship between antigen-specific immune responses and COVID-19 disease severity. We completed a combined examination of all three branches of adaptive immunity at the level of SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell and neutralizing antibody responses in acute and convalescent subjects. SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were each associated with milder disease. Coordinated SARS-CoV-2-specific adaptive immune responses were associated with milder disease, suggesting roles for both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in protective immunity in COVID-19. Notably, coordination of SARS-CoV-2 antigen-specific responses was disrupted in individuals > 65 years old. Scarcity of naive T cells was also associated with ageing and poor disease outcomes. A parsimonious explanation is that coordinated CD4+ T cell, CD8+ T cell, and antibody responses are protective, but uncoordinated responses frequently fail to control disease, with a connection between ageing and impaired adaptive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2.
The development of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines and therapeutics will depend on understanding viral immunity. We studied T cell memory in 42 patients following recovery from COVID-19 (28 with mild disease and 14 with severe disease) and 16 unexposed donors, using interferon-γ-based assays with peptides spanning SARS-CoV-2 except ORF1. The breadth and magnitude of T cell responses were significantly higher in severe as compared with mild cases. Total and spike-specific T cell responses correlated with spike-specific antibody responses. We identified 41 peptides containing CD4⁺ and/or CD8⁺ epitopes, including six immunodominant regions. Six optimized CD8⁺ epitopes were defined, with peptide–MHC pentamer-positive cells displaying the central and effector memory phenotype. In mild cases, higher proportions of SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8⁺ T cells were observed. The identification of T cell responses associated with milder disease will support an understanding of protective immunity and highlights the potential of including non-spike proteins within future COVID-19 vaccine design.
The COVID-19 vaccine R&D landscape has developed at unprecedented scale and speed since our initial analysis in April identified 115 candidates in the pipeline (Nat. Rev. Drug Discov. 19, 305–306; 2020). In this updated overview, we focus on candidates in clinical trials and provide some initial perspectives on their clinical development.
There is growing evidence pointing to the protective role of T cells against COVID-19. Vaccines eliciting targeted T cell responses have the potential to provide robust, long-lasting immunity. However, their design requires knowledge of the SARS-CoV-2-specific epitopes that can elicit a T cell response and confer protection across a wide population. Here, we provide a unified description of emerging data of SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes compiled from results of 8 independent studies of convalescent COVID-19 patients. We describe features of these epitopes relevant for vaccine design, while indicating knowledge gaps that can, in part, be augmented using prior immunological data from SARS-CoV. The landscape of SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes that we describe can help guide SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development as well as future immunological studies. A web-based platform has also been developed to complement these efforts.
A novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) emerged from China in late 2019 and rapidly spread across the globe, infecting millions of people and generating societal disruption on a level not seen since the 1918 influenza pandemic. A safe and effective vaccine is desperately needed to prevent the continued spread of SARS-CoV-2; yet, rational vaccine design efforts are currently hampered by the lack of knowledge regarding viral epitopes targeted during an immune response, and the need for more in-depth knowledge on betacoronavirus immunology. To that end, we developed a computational workflow using a series of open-source algorithms and webtools to analyze the proteome of SARS-CoV-2 and identify putative T cell and B cell epitopes. Utilizing a set of stringent selection criteria to filter peptide epitopes, we identified 41 T cell epitopes (5 HLA class I, 36 HLA class II) and 6 B cell epitopes that could serve as promising targets for peptide-based vaccine development against this emerging global pathogen. To our knowledge, this is the first study to comprehensively analyze all 10 (structural, non-structural and accessory) proteins from SARS-CoV-2 using predictive algorithms to identify potential targets for vaccine development.
Bats are presumed reservoirs of diverse coronaviruses (CoVs) including progenitors of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. However, the evolution and diversification of these coronaviruses remains poorly understood. Here we use a Bayesian statistical framework and a large sequence data set from bat-CoVs (including 630 novel CoV sequences) in China to study their macroevolution, cross-species transmission and dispersal. We find that host-switching occurs more frequently and across more distantly related host taxa in alpha- than beta-CoVs, and is more highly constrained by phylogenetic distance for beta-CoVs. We show that inter-family and -genus switching is most common in Rhinolophidae and the genus Rhinolophus. Our analyses identify the host taxa and geographic regions that define hotspots of CoV evolutionary diversity in China that could help target bat-CoV discovery for proactive zoonotic disease surveillance. Finally, we present a phylogenetic analysis suggesting a likely origin for SARS-CoV-2 in Rhinolophus spp. bats.
To date, no specific vaccine or drug has been proven to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Therefore, we implemented an immunoinformatic approach to design an efficient multi-epitopes vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.
The designed-vaccine construct consists of several immunodominant epitopes from structural proteins of spike, nucleocapsid, membrane, and envelope. These peptides promote cellular and humoral immunity and interferon-gamma responses. Also, these epitopes have a high antigenic capacity and are not likely to cause allergies. To enhance the vaccine immunogenicity, we used three potent adjuvants: Flagellin of Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Dublin, a driven peptide from high mobility group box 1 as HP-91, and human beta-defensin 3 protein. The physicochemical and immunological properties of the vaccine structure were evaluated. The tertiary structure of the vaccine protein was predicted and refined by Phyre2 and Galaxi refine and validated using RAMPAGE and ERRAT. Results of ElliPro showed 246 sresidues from vaccine might be conformational B-cell epitopes. Docking of the vaccine with toll-like receptors (TLR) 3, 5, 8, and angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 approved an appropriate interaction between the vaccine and receptors. Prediction of mRNA secondary structure and in silico cloning demonstrated that the vaccine can be efficiently expressed in Escherichia coli.
Our results demonstrated that the multi-epitope vaccine might be potentially antigenic and induce humoral and cellular immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. This vaccine can interact appropriately with the TLR3, 5, and 8. Also, it has a high-quality structure and suitable characteristics such as high stability and potential for expression in Escherichia coli .
CD8+ T cells are critical for the elimination and long-lasting protection of many viral infections, but their role in the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is unclear. Emerging data indicates that SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cells are detectable in the majority of individuals recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, optimal virus-specific epitopes, the role of pre-existing heterologous immunity as well as their kinetics and differentiation program during disease control have not been defined in detail. Here, we show that both pre-existing and newly induced SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T-cell responses are potentially important determinants of immune protection in mild SARS-CoV-2 infection. In particular, our results can be summarized as follows: First, immunodominant SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T-cell epitopes are targeted in the majority of individuals with convalescent SARS-CoV-2 infection. Second, MHC class I tetramer analyses revealed the emergence of phenotypically diverse and functionally competent pre-existing and newly induced SARS-CoV-2-specific memory CD8+ T cells that showed similar characteristics compared to influenza-specific CD8+ T cells. Third, SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T-cell responses are more robustly detectable than antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2-spike protein. This was confirmed in a longitudinal analysis of acute-resolving infection that demonstrated rapid induction of the SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cells within a week followed by a prolonged contraction phase that outlasted the waning humoral immune response indicating that CD8+ T-cell responses might serve as a more precise correlate of antiviral immunity than antibody measurements after convalescence. Collectively, these data provide new insights into the fine specificity, heterogeneity, and dynamics of SARS-CoV-2-specific memory CD8+ T cells, potentially informing the rational development of a protective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created an urgency to identify novel vaccine targets for protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2. Early reports identify protective roles for both humoral and cell-mediated immunity for SARS-CoV-2.
We leveraged our bioinformatics binding prediction tools for human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-I and HLA-II alleles that were developed using mass spectrometry-based profiling of individual HLA-I and HLA-II alleles to predict peptide binding to diverse allele sets. We applied these binding predictors to viral genomes from the Coronaviridae family and specifically focused on T cell epitopes from SARS-CoV-2 proteins. We assayed a subset of these epitopes in a T cell induction assay for their ability to elicit CD8+ T cell responses.
We first validated HLA-I and HLA-II predictions on Coronaviridae family epitopes deposited in the Virus Pathogen Database and Analysis Resource (ViPR) database. We then utilized our HLA-I and HLA-II predictors to identify 11,897 HLA-I and 8046 HLA-II candidate peptides which were highly ranked for binding across 13 open reading frames (ORFs) of SARS-CoV-2. These peptides are predicted to provide over 99% allele coverage for the US, European, and Asian populations. From our SARS-CoV-2-predicted peptide-HLA-I allele pairs, 374 pairs identically matched what was previously reported in the ViPR database, originating from other coronaviruses with identical sequences. Of these pairs, 333 (89%) had a positive HLA binding assay result, reinforcing the validity of our predictions. We then demonstrated that a subset of these highly predicted epitopes were immunogenic based on their recognition by specific CD8+ T cells in healthy human donor peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Finally, we characterized the expression of SARS-CoV-2 proteins in virally infected cells to prioritize those which could be potential targets for T cell immunity.
Using our bioinformatics platform, we identify multiple putative epitopes that are potential targets for CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, whose HLA binding properties cover nearly the entire population. We also confirm that our binding predictors can predict epitopes eliciting CD8+ T cell responses from multiple SARS-CoV-2 proteins. Protein expression and population HLA allele coverage, combined with the ability to identify T cell epitopes, should be considered in SARS-CoV-2 vaccine design strategies and immune monitoring.
T cells are involved in the early identification and clearance of viral infections and also support the development of antibodies by B cells. This central role for T cells makes them a desirable target for assessing the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here, we combined two high-throughput immune profiling methods to create a quantitative picture of the T-cell response to SARS-CoV-2. First, at the individual level, we deeply characterized 3 acutely infected and 58 recovered COVID-19 subjects by experimentally mapping their CD8 T-cell response through antigen stimulation to 545 Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) class I presented viral peptides (class II data in a forthcoming study). Then, at the population level, we performed T-cell repertoire sequencing on 1,015 samples (from 827 COVID-19 subjects) as well as 3,500 controls to identify shared "public" T-cell receptors (TCRs) associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection from both CD8 and CD4 T cells. Collectively, our data reveal that CD8 T-cell responses are often driven by a few immunodominant, HLA-restricted epitopes. As expected, the T-cell response to SARS-CoV-2 peaks about one to two weeks after infection and is detectable for several months after recovery. As an application of these data, we trained a classifier to diagnose SARS-CoV-2 infection based solely on TCR sequencing from blood samples, and observed, at 99.8% specificity, high early sensitivity soon after diagnosis (Day 3-7 = 83.8% [95% CI = 77.6-89.4]; Day 8-14 = 92.4 [87.6-96.6]) as well as lasting sensitivity after recovery (Day 29+/convalescent = 96.7% [93.0-99.2]). These results demonstrate an approach to reliably assess the adaptive immune response both soon after viral antigenic exposure (before antibodies are typically detectable) as well as at later time points. This blood-based molecular approach to characterizing the cellular immune response has applications in vaccine development as well as clinical diagnostics and monitoring.
An outbreak of infection caused by SARS-CoV-2 recently has brought a great challenge to public health. Rapid identification of immune epitopes would be an efficient way to screen the candidates for vaccine development at the time of pandemic. This study aimed to predict the protective epitopes with bioinformatics methods and resources for vaccine development.
The genome sequence and protein sequences of SARS-CoV-2 were retrieved from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database. ABCpred and BepiPred servers were utilized for sequential B-cell epitope analysis. Discontinuous B-cell epitopes were predicted via DiscoTope 2.0 program. IEDB server was utilized for HLA-1 and HLA-2 binding peptides computation. Surface accessibility, antigenicity, and other important features of forecasted epitopes were characterized for immunogen potential evaluation.
A total of 63 sequential B-cell epitopes on spike protein were predicted and 4 peptides (Spike315-324, Spike333-338, Spike648-663, Spike1064-1079) exhibited high antigenicity score and good surface accessibility. Ten residues within spike protein (Gly496, Glu498, Pro499, Thr500, Leu1141, Gln1142, Pro1143, Glu1144, Leu1145, Asp1146) are forecasted as components of discontinuous B-cell epitopes. The bioinformatics analysis of HLA binding peptides within nucleocapsid protein produced 81 and 64 peptides being able to bind MHC class I and MHC class II molecules respectively. The peptides (Nucleocapsid66-75, Nucleocapsid104-112) were predicted to bind a wide spectrum of both HLA-1 and HLA-2 molecules.
B-cell epitopes on spike protein and T-cell epitopes within nucleocapsid protein were identified and recommended for developing a protective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.
In December 2019, the Chinese city of Wuhan was the center of origin of a pneumonia-like disease outbreak with an unknown causative pathogen. The CDC, China, managed to track the source of infection to a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV; SARS-CoV-2) that shares approximately 79.6% of its genome with SARS-CoV. The World Health Organization (WHO) initially declared COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and later characterized it as a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. Due to the novel nature of this virus, there is an urgent need for vaccines and therapeutics to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and its associated disease, COVID-19. Global efforts are underway to circumvent its further spread and treat COVID-19 patients through experimental vaccine formulations and therapeutic interventions, respectively. In the absence of any effective therapeutics, we have devised h bioinformatics-based approaches to accelerate global efforts in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 and to assist researchers in the initial phase of vaccine and therapeutics development. In this study, we have performed comprehensive meta-analyses and developed an integrative resource, “CoronaVR” (http://bioinfo.imtech.res.in/manojk/coronavr/). Predominantly, we identified potential epitope-based vaccine candidates, siRNA-based therapeutic regimens, and diagnostic primers. The resource is categorized into the main sections “Genomes,” “Epitopes,” “Therapeutics,” and Primers.” The genome section harbors different components, viz, genomes, a genome browser, phylogenetic analysis, codon usage, glycosylation sites, and structural analysis. Under the umbrella of epitopes, sub-divisions, namely cross-protective epitopes, B-cell (linear/discontinuous), T-cell (CD4+/CD8+), CTL, and MHC binders, are presented. The therapeutics section has different sub-sections like siRNA, miRNAs, and sgRNAs. Further, experimentally confirmed and designed diagnostic primers are earmarked in the primers section. Our study provided a set of shortlisted B-cell and T-cell (CD4+ and CD8+) epitopes that can be experimentally tested for their incorporation in vaccine formulations. The list of selected primers can be used in testing kits to identify SARS-CoV-2, while the recommended siRNAs, sgRNAs, and miRNAs can be used in therapeutic regimens. We foresee that this resource will help in advancing the research against coronaviruses.
The present study aimed to work out a peptide-based multi-epitope vaccine against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We predicted different B-cell and T-cell epitopes by using the Immune Epitopes Database (IEDB). Homology modeling of the construct was done using SWISS-MODEL and then docked with different toll-like-receptors (TLR4, TLR7, and TLR8) using PatchDock, HADDOCK, and FireDock, respectively. From the overlapped epitopes, we designed five vaccine constructs C1-C5. Based on antigenicity, allergenicity, solubility, different physiochemical properties, and molecular docking scores, we selected the vaccine construct 1 (C1) for further processing. Docking of C1 with TLR4, TLR7, and TLR8 showed striking interactions with global binding energy of −43.48, −65.88, and −60.24 Kcal/mol, respectively. The docked complex was further simulated, which revealed that both molecules remain stable with minimum RMSF. Activation of TLRs induces downstream pathways to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines against viruses and immune system simulation shows enhanced antibody production after the booster dose. In conclusion, C1 was the best vaccine candidate among all designed constructs to elicit an immune response against SARS-CoV-2 and combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
COVID-19 has recently become the most serious threat to public health, and its prevalence has been increasing at an alarming rate. The incubation period for the virus is ~1–14 days and all age groups may be susceptible to a fatality rate of about 5.9%. COVID-19 is caused by a novel single-stranded, positive (+) sense RNA beta coronavirus. The development of a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent need worldwide. Immunoinformatics approaches are both cost-effective and convenient, as in silico predictions can reduce the number of experiments needed. In this study, with the aid of immunoinformatics tools, we tried to design a multi-epitope vaccine that can be used for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. The epitopes were computed by using B cells, cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), and helper T lymphocytes (HTL) base on the proteins of SARS-CoV-2. A vaccine was devised by fusing together the B cell, HTL, and CTL epitopes with linkers. To enhance the immunogenicity, the β-defensin (45 mer) amino acid sequence, and pan-HLA DR binding epitopes (13aa) were adjoined to the N-terminal of the vaccine with the help of the EAAAK linker. To enable the intracellular delivery of the modeled vaccine, a TAT sequence (11aa) was appended to C-terminal. Linkers play vital roles in producing an extended conformation (flexibility), protein folding, and separation of functional domains, and therefore, make the protein structure more stable. The secondary and three-dimensional (3D) structure of the final vaccine was then predicted. Furthermore, the complex between the final vaccine and immune receptors (toll-like receptor-3 (TLR-3), major histocompatibility complex (MHC-I), and MHC-II) were evaluated by molecular docking. Lastly, to confirm the expression of the designed vaccine, the mRNA of the vaccine was enhanced with the aid of the Java Codon Adaptation Tool, and the secondary structure was generated from Mfold. Then we performed in silico cloning. The final vaccine requires experimental validation to determine its safety and efficacy in controlling SARS-CoV-2 infections.
The novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic has spread a blaze of increasing fatality rates across the world. The dearth of potential vaccines has left the survival of mankind with doubts. The development of multi-epitope vaccine in this current situation could be a possible COVID treatment. We have designed a novel multi-epitope, multi-protein vaccine with different proteins of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - Corona Virus -2 (SARS-CoV-2) with immuno-informatics approaches, which has been validated in silico to be stable and potential. It has been prepared with Cytotoxic T-cell (TC ) and Helper T-cell (TH ) cell binding epitopes overlapping with B-cell binding epitopes predicted for 6 proteins conserved among 4 different viral strains isolated across the world. Both the humoral and cell-mediated immune responses are ensured due to the presence of T cell and B-cell inducing epitopes along with interferon-gamma inducing epitopes. The final vaccine construct comprises of an adjuvant at the N terminal, Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte and Helper T Lymphocyte epitopes. The construct showed potential antigenicity and was non-allergic. The molecular docking of the refined, validated tertiary structure model of the vaccine was performed with immune-stimulatory Toll Like Receptors (TLR), TLR-2,3,4. The molecular dynamics simulations of docking revealed binding interactions of receptor with vaccine. The immune simulation of the vaccine even confirmed the initiation of elevated host immune responses. The efficient translation of the vaccine in an expression vector was confirmed with in-silico cloning approach. Certainly, the development of such vaccine candidate could possibly be an effective therapy for COVID-19.
The emergence of the COVID-19 outbreak at the end of 2019, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has, to date, led to over 13.6 million infections and nearly 600,000 deaths. Consequently, there is an urgent need to better understand the molecular factors triggering immune defense against the virus and to develop countermeasures to hinder its spread. Using in silico analyses, we showed that human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I cell-surface molecules vary in their capacity for binding different SARS-CoV-2-derived epitopes, i.e., short sequences of 8-11 amino acids, and pinpointed five specific SARS-CoV-2 epitopes that are likely to be presented to cytotoxic T-cells and hence activate immune responses. The identified epitopes, each one of nine amino acids, have high sequence similarity to the equivalent epitopes of SARS-CoV virus, which are known to elicit an effective T cell response in vitro. Moreover, we give a structural explanation for the binding of SARS-CoV-2-epitopes to MHC molecules. Our data can help us to better understand the differences in outcomes of COVID-19 patients and may aid the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and possible future outbreaks of novel coronaviruses.
Ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has raised a drastic challenge to global public health security. Most of the patients with COVID-19 suffer from mild flu-like illnesses such as cold and fever; however, few percentages of the patients progress from severe illness to death, mostly in an immunocompromised individual. The causative agent of COVID-19 is an RNA virus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Despite these debilitating conditions, no medication to stop the disease progression or vaccination is available till now. Therefore, we aimed to formulate a multi-epitope vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 by utilizing an immunoinformatics approach. For this purpose, we used the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein to determine the immunodominant T- and B-cell epitopes. After rigorous assessment, we designed a vaccine construct using four potential epitopes from each of the three epitope classes such as cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, helper T-lymphocyte, and linear B-lymphocyte epitopes. The designed vaccine was antigenic, immunogenic, and non-allergenic with suitable physicochemical properties and has higher solubility. More importantly, the predicted vaccine structure was similar to the native protein. Further investigations indicated a strong and stable binding interaction between the vaccine and the toll-like receptor (TLR4). Strong binding stability and structural compactness were also evident in molecular dynamics simulation. Furthermore, the computer-generated immune simulation showed that the vaccine could trigger real-life-like immune responses upon administration into humans. Finally, codon optimization based on Escherichia coli K12 resulted in optimal GC content and higher CAI value followed by incorporating it into the cloning vector pET28+(a). Overall, these results suggest that the designed peptide vaccine can serve as an excellent prophylactic candidate against SARS-CoV-2.
Communicated by Ramaswamy H. Sarma
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) caused COVID-19 disease in China. So far, no vaccine has licensed to protect against infection with COVID-19, therefore an effective COVID-19 vaccine needed. The aim of this study was to predict antigenic peptides of SARS-CoV-2 for designing the COVID-19 vaccine using immunoinformatic analysis. In this study, T and B-cell epitopes of S protein were predicted and screened based on the antigenicity, toxicity, allergenicity, and cross-reactivity with human proteomes. The epitopes were joined by the appropriate linker. LT-IIc as an adjuvant was attached to the end of the structure. The secondary and 3D structure of the vaccine was predicted. The refinement process was performed to improve the quality of the 3D model structure; the validation process is performed using the Ramachandran plot and ProSA z-score. The proposed vaccine's binding affinity to the HLA-A11: 01 and HLA-DRB1_01: 01 molecule was evaluated by molecular docking. Using molecular dynamics, the stability of vaccine-HLA complexes was also evaluated. Finally, in silico gene cloning was performed in the pET30a (+) vector. The findings suggest that the current vaccine may be a promising vaccine to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Memory T cells induced by previous pathogens can shape the susceptibility to, and clinical severity of, subsequent infections¹. Little is known about the presence of pre-existing memory T cells in humans with the potential to recognize SARS-CoV-2. Here, we first studied T cell responses to structural (nucleocapsid protein, NP) and non-structural (NSP-7 and NSP13 of ORF1) regions of SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 convalescents (n=36). In all of them we demonstrated the presence of CD4 and CD8 T cells recognizing multiple regions of the NP protein. We then showed that SARS-recovered patients (n=23) still possess long-lasting memory T cells reactive to SARS-NP 17 years after the 2003 outbreak, which displayed robust cross-reactivity to SARS-CoV-2 NP. Surprisingly, we also frequently detected SARS-CoV-2 specific T cells in individuals with no history of SARS, COVID-19 or contact with SARS/COVID-19 patients (n=37). SARS-CoV-2 T cells in uninfected donors exhibited a different pattern of immunodominance, frequently targeting the ORF-1-coded proteins NSP7 and 13 as well as the NP structural protein. Epitope characterization of NSP7-specific T cells showed recognition of protein fragments with low homology to “common cold” human coronaviruses but conserved amongst animal betacoranaviruses. Thus, infection with betacoronaviruses induces multispecific and long-lasting T cell immunity to the structural protein NP. Understanding how pre-existing NP- and ORF-1-specific T cells present in the general population impact susceptibility and pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 infection is of paramount importance for the management of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has led to the ongoing 2019-2020 pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA coronavirus. Effective countermeasures against SARS-CoV-2 infection require the design and development of specific and effective vaccine candidates.
To address the urgent need for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, in the present study, we designed and validated one cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) and one helper T lymphocyte (HTL) multi-epitope vaccine (MEV) against SARS-CoV-2 using various in silico methods.
Both designed MEVs are composed of CTL and HTL epitopes screened from 11 structural and nonstructural proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 proteome. Both MEVs also carry potential B-cell linear and discontinuous epitopes as well as interferon gamma–inducing epitopes. To enhance the immune response of our vaccine design, truncated (residues 10-153) Onchocerca volvulus activation-associated secreted protein-1 was used as an adjuvant at the N termini of both MEVs. The tertiary models for both the designed MEVs were generated, refined, and further analyzed for stable molecular interaction with toll-like receptor 3. Codon-biased complementary DNA (cDNA) was generated for both MEVs and analyzed in silico for high level expression in a mammalian (human) host cell line.
In the present study, we screened and shortlisted 38 CTL, 33 HTL, and 12 B cell epitopes from the 11 protein sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 proteome. Moreover, the molecular interactions of the screened epitopes with their respective human leukocyte antigen allele binders and the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP) complex were positively validated. The shortlisted screened epitopes were utilized to design two novel MEVs against SARS-CoV-2. Further molecular models of both MEVs were prepared, and their stable molecular interactions with toll-like receptor 3 were positively validated. The codon-optimized cDNAs of both MEVs were also positively analyzed for high levels of overexpression in a human cell line.
The present study is highly significant in terms of the molecular design of prospective CTL and HTL vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 infection with potential to elicit cellular and humoral immune responses. The epitopes of the designed MEVs are predicted to cover the large human population worldwide (96.10%). Hence, both designed MEVs could be tried in vivo as potential vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2.
The recent outbreak by SARS-CoV-2 has generated a chaos in global health and economy and claimed/infected a large number of lives. Closely resembling with SARS CoV, the present strain has manifested exceptionally higher degree of spreadability, virulence and stability possibly due to some unidentified mutations. The viral spike glycoprotein is very likely to interact with host Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmits its genetic materials and hijacks host machinery with extreme fidelity for self propagation. Few attempts have been made to develop a suitable vaccine or ACE2 blocker or virus-receptor inhibitor within this short period of time.
Here, attempt was taken to develop some therapeutic and vaccination strategies with a comparison of spike glycoproteins among SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and the SARS-CoV-2. We verified their structure quality (SWISS-MODEL, Phyre2, and Pymol) topology (ProFunc), motifs (MEME Suite, GLAM2Scan), gene ontology based conserved domain (InterPro database) and screened several epitopes (SVMTrip) of SARS CoV-2 based on their energetics, IC50 and antigenicity with regard to their possible glycosylation and MHC/paratope binding (Vaxigen v2.0, HawkDock, ZDOCK Server) effects.
We screened here few pairs of spike protein epitopic regions and selected their energetic, Inhibitory Concentration50 (IC50), MHC II reactivity and found some of those to be very good target for vaccination. A possible role of glycosylation on epitopic region showed profound effects on epitopic recognition.
The present work might be helpful for the urgent development of a suitable vaccination regimen against SARS CoV-2.
A recent pandemic caused by a single-stranded RNA virus, COVID-19, initially discovered in China, is now spreading globally. This poses a serious threat that needs to be addressed immediately. Genome analysis of SARS-CoV-2 has revealed its close relation to SARS-coronavirus along with few changes in its spike protein. The spike protein aids in receptor binding and viral entry within the host and therefore represents a potential target for vaccine and therapeutic development. In the current study, the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 was explored for potential immunogenic epitopes to design multi-epitope vaccine constructs. The S1 and S2 domains of spike proteins were analyzed, and two vaccine constructs were prioritized with T-cell and B-cell epitopes. We adapted a comprehensive predictive framework to provide novel insights into immunogenic epitopes of spike proteins, which can further be evaluated as potential vaccine candidates against COVID-19. Prioritized epitopes were then modeled using linkers and adjuvants, and respective 3D models were constructed to evaluate their physiochemical properties and their possible interactions with ACE2, HLA Superfamily alleles, TLR2, and TLR4.
Since the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome‐coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2) in December 2019 in China, there has been an upsurge in the number of deaths and infected individuals throughout the world, thereby leading to the World Health Organization declaration of a pandemic. Since no specific therapy is currently available for the same, the present study was aimed to explore the SARS‐CoV‐2 genome for the identification of immunogenic regions using immunoinformatics approach. A series of computational tools were applied in a systematic way to identify the epitopes that could be utilized in vaccine development. The screened‐out epitopes were passed through several immune filters, such as promiscuousity, conservancy, antigenicity, nonallergenicity, population coverage, nonhomologous to human proteins, and affinity with human leukocyte antigen alleles, to screen out the best possible ones. Further, a construct comprising 11 CD4, 12 CD8, 3 B cell, and 3 interferon‐γ epitopes, along with an adjuvant β‐defensin, was designed in silico, resulting in the formation of a multiepitope vaccine. The in silico immune simulation and population coverage analysis of the vaccine sequence showed its capacity to elicit cellular, humoral, and innate immune cells and to cover up a worldwide population of more than 97%. Further, the interaction analysis of the vaccine construct with Toll‐like receptor 3 (immune receptor) was carried out by docking and dynamics simulations, revealing high affinity, constancy, and pliability between the two. The overall findings suggest that the vaccine may be highly effective, and is therefore required to be tested in the lab settings to evaluate its efficacy.
Currently, there is limited knowledge about the immunological profiles of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We used computer-based immunoinformatic analysis and the newly resolved 3-dimensional (3D) structures of the SARS-CoV-2 S trimeric protein, together with analyses of the immunogenic profiles of SARS-CoV, to anticipate potential B-cell and T-cell epitopes of the SARS-CoV-2 S protein for vaccine design, particularly for peptide-driven vaccine design and serological diagnosis. Nine conserved linear B-cell epitopes and multiple discontinuous B-cell epitopes composed of 69 residues on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 trimeric S protein were predicted to be highly antigenic. We found that the SARS-CoV-2 S protein has a different antigenic profile than that of the SARS-CoV S protein due to the variations in their primary and 3D structures. Importantly, SARS-CoV-2 may exploit an immune evasion mechanism through two point mutations in the critical and conserved linear neutralization epitope (overlap with fusion peptide) around a sparsely glycosylated area. These mutations lead to a significant decrease in the antigenicity of this epitope in the SARS-CoV-2 S protein. In addition, 62 T-cell epitopes in the SARS-CoV-2 S protein were predicted in our study. The structure-based immunoinformatic analysis for the SARS-CoV-2 S protein in this study may improve vaccine design, diagnosis, and immunotherapy against the pandemic of COVID-19.
To ultimately combat the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, it is desired to develop an effective and safe vaccine against this highly contagious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Our literature and clinical trial survey showed that the whole virus, as well as the spike (S) protein, nucleocapsid (N) protein, and membrane (M) protein, have been tested for vaccine development against SARS and MERS. However, these vaccine candidates might lack the induction of complete protection and have safety concerns. We then applied the Vaxign and the newly developed machine learning-based Vaxign-ML reverse vaccinology tools to predict COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Our Vaxign analysis found that the SARS-CoV-2 N protein sequence is conserved with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV but not from the other four human coronaviruses causing mild symptoms. By investigating the entire proteome of SARS-CoV-2, six proteins, including the S protein and five non-structural proteins (nsp3, 3CL-pro, and nsp8-10), were predicted to be adhesins, which are crucial to the viral adhering and host invasion. The S, nsp3, and nsp8 proteins were also predicted by Vaxign-ML to induce high protective antigenicity. Besides the commonly used S protein, the nsp3 protein has not been tested in any coronavirus vaccine studies and was selected for further investigation. The nsp3 was found to be more conserved among SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV than among 15 coronaviruses infecting human and other animals. The protein was also predicted to contain promiscuous MHC-I and MHC-II T-cell epitopes, and the predicted linear B-cell epitopes were found to be localized on the surface of the protein. Our predicted vaccine targets have the potential for effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine development. We also propose that an “Sp/Nsp cocktail vaccine” containing a structural protein(s) (Sp) and a non-structural protein(s) (Nsp) would stimulate effective complementary immune responses.
A SARS-CoV-2 variant carrying the Spike protein amino acid change D614G has become the most prevalent form in the global pandemic. Dynamic tracking of variant frequencies revealed a recurrent pattern of G614 increase at multiple geographic levels: national, regional and municipal. The shift occurred even in local epidemics where the original D614 form was well established prior to the introduction of the G614 variant. The consistency of this pattern was highly statistically significant, suggesting that the G614 variant may have a fitness advantage. We found that the G614 variant grows to higher titer as pseudotyped virions. In infected individuals G614 is associated with lower RT-PCR cycle thresholds, suggestive of higher upper respiratory tract viral loads, although not with increased disease severity. These findings illuminate changes important for a mechanistic understanding of the virus, and support continuing surveillance of Spike mutations to aid in the development of immunological interventions.
In the past two decades, 7 coronaviruses have infected the human population, with two major outbreaks caused by SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV in the year 2002 and 2012, respectively. Currently, the entire world is facing a pandemic of another coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, with a high fatality rate. The spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 mediates entry of virus into the host cell and is one of the most important antigenic determinants, making it a potential candidate for a vaccine. In this study, we have computationally designed a multi-epitope vaccine using spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2. The overall quality of the candidate vaccine was validated in silico and Molecular Dynamics Simulation confirmed the stability of the designed vaccine. Docking studies revealed stable interactions of the vaccine with Toll-Like Receptors and MHC Receptors. The in silico cloning and codon optimization supported the proficient expression of the designed vaccine in E. coli expression system. The efficiency of the candidate vaccine to trigger an effective immune response was assessed by an in silico immune simulation. The computational analyses suggest that the designed multi-epitope vaccine is structurally stable which can induce specific immune responses and thus, can be a potential vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2.
The outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has infected millions of people with a large number of deaths across the globe. The existing therapies are limited in dealing with SARS-CoV-2 due to the sudden appearance of the virus. Therefore, vaccines and antiviral medicines are in desperate need. We took immune-informatics approaches to identify B- and T-cell epitopes for surface glycoprotein (S), membrane glycoprotein (M) and nucleocapsid protein (N) of SARS-CoV-2, followed by estimating their antigenicity and interactions with the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles. Allergenicity, toxicity, physiochemical properties analysis and stability were examined to confirm the specificity and selectivity of the epitope candidates. We identified a total of five B cell epitopes in RBD of S protein, seven MHC class-I, and 18 MHC class-II binding T-cell epitopes from S, M and N protein which showed non-allergenic, non-toxic and highly antigenic features and non-mutated in 55,179 SARS-CoV-2 virus strains until June 25, 2020. The epitopes identified here can be a potentially good candidate repertoire for vaccine development.
SARS-CoV-2 has been identified as the causative agent of a global outbreak of respiratory tract disease (COVID-19). In some patients the infection results in moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), requiring invasive mechanical ventilation. High serum levels of IL-6, IL-10 and an immune hyperresponsiveness referred to as a ‘cytokine storm’ have been associated with poor clinical outcome. Despite the large numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, information on the phenotype and kinetics of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells is limited. Here, we studied 10 COVID-19 patients who required admission to an intensive care unit and detected SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4 ⁺ and CD8 ⁺ T cells in 10 out of 10 and 8 out of 10 patients, respectively. We also detected low levels of SARS-CoV-2-reactive T cells in 2 out of 10 healthy controls not previously exposed to SARS-CoV-2, which is indicative of cross-reactivity due to past infection with ‘common cold’ coronaviruses. The strongest T-cell responses were directed to the spike (S) surface glycoprotein, and SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells predominantly produced effector and Th1 cytokines, although Th2 and Th17 cytokines were also detected. Furthermore, we studied T-cell kinetics and showed that SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells are present relatively early and increase over time. Collectively, these data shed light on the potential variations in T-cell responses as a function of disease severity, an issue that is key to understanding the potential role of immunopathology in the disease, and also inform vaccine design and evaluation.
The prevalence of respiratory illness caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 associated with multiple organ failures is spreading rapidly due to its contagious human-to-human transmission and inadequate global healthcare systems. Pharmaceutical re-use, reflecting an effective drug development technique using existing drugs, could shorten the time and reduce the costs relative to de novo drug discovery. We have performed virtual screening of antiviral compounds targeting the spike glycoprotein (S), main protease (Mpro), and the SARS-CoV-2 RBD-ACE2 complex of SARS-CoV-2. PC786, an antiviral polymerase inhibitor, showed improved binding affinity toward all the targets. Furthermore, the post-fusion conformation of the trimeric S protein RBD domain with ACE2 revealed conformational changes associated with the PC786 drug binding. The proposed T cell and B cell epitope identification using the immunoinformatics approach could direct the experimental study with a higher probability of discovering appropriate vaccine candidates with fewer experiments and higher reliability.
A new coronavirus infection, COVID-19, has recently emerged, and has caused a global pandemic along with an international public health emergency. Currently, no licensed vaccines are available for COVID-19. The identification of immunodominant epitopes for both Band T-cells that induce protective responses in the host is crucial for effective vaccine design. Computational prediction of potential epitopes might significantly reduce the time required to screen peptide libraries as part of emergent vaccine design. In our present study, we used an extensive immunoinformatics-based approach to predict conserved immunodominant epitopes from the proteome of SARS-CoV-2. Regions from SARS-CoV-2 protein sequences were defined as immunodominant, based on the following three criteria regarding Band T-cell epitopes: (i) they were both mapped, (ii) they predicted protective antigens, and (iii) they were completely identical to experimentally validated epitopes of SARS-CoV. Further, structural and molecular docking analyses were performed in order to understand the binding interactions of the identified immunodominant epitopes with human major histocompatibility complexes (MHC). Our study provides a set of potential immunodominant epitopes that could enable the generation of both antibody-and cell-mediated immunity. This could contribute to developing peptide vaccine-based adaptive immunotherapy against SARS-CoV-2 infections and prevent future pandemic outbreaks.
Here we propose a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine design concept based on identification of highly conserved regions of the viral genome and newly acquired adaptations, both predicted to generate epitopes presented on MHC class I and II across the vast majority of the population. We further prioritize genomic regions that generate highly dissimilar peptides from the human proteome, and are also predicted to produce B cell epitopes. We propose sixty-five 33mer peptide sequences, a subset of which can be tested using DNA or mRNA delivery strategies. These include peptides that are contained within evolutionarily divergent regions of the spike protein reported to increase infectivity through increased binding to the ACE2 receptor and within a newly evolved furin cleavage site thought to increase membrane fusion. Validation and implementation of this vaccine concept could specifically target specific vulnerabilities of SARS-CoV-2 and should engage a robust adaptive immune response in the vast majority of the population.
The best therapeutic strategy to find an effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is to explore the target structural protein. In the present study, a novel multi-epitope vaccine is designed using in silico tools that potentially trigger both CD4 and CD8 T-cell immune responses against the novel Coronavirus. The vaccine candidate was designed using B and T-cell epitopes that can act as an immunogen and elicits immune response in the host system. NCBI was used for the retrieval of surface spike glycopro-tein, of novel corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) strains. VaxiJen server screens the most important immunogen of all the proteins and IEDB server gives the prediction and analysis of B and T cell epitopes. Final vaccine construct was designed in silico composed of 425 amino acids including the 50S ribosomal protein adjuvant and the construct was computationally validated in terms of antigenicity, allergenicity and stability on considering all critical parameters into consideration. The results subjected to the modeling and docking studies of vaccine were validated. Molecular docking study revealed the protein protein binding interactions between the vaccine construct and TLR-3 immune receptor. The MD simulations confirmed stability of the binding pose. The immune simulation results showed significant response for immune cells. The findings of the study confirmed that the final vaccine construct of chi-meric peptide could able to enhance the immune response against nCoV-19.
The ongoing global health crisis caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus which leads to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has impacted not only the health of people everywhere, but the economy in nations across the world. While vaccine candidates and therapeutics are currently undergoing clinical trials, there is a lack of proven effective treatments or cures for COVID-19. In this study, we have presented a synergistic computational platform, including molecular dynamics simulations and immunoinformatics techniques, to rationally design a multi-epitope vaccine candidate for COVID-19. This platform combines epitopes across Linear B Lymphocytes (LBL), Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes (CTL) and Helper T Lymphocytes (HTL) derived from both mutant and wild-type spike glycoproteins from SARS-CoV-2 with diverse protein conformations. In addition, this vaccine construct also takes the considerable glycan shield of the spike glycoprotein into account, which protects it from immune response. We have identified a vaccine candidate (a 35.9 kDa protein), named COVCCF, which is composed of 5 LBL, 6 HTL, and 6 CTL epitopes from the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2. Using multi-dose immune simulations, COVCCF induces elevated levels of immunoglobulin activity (IgM, IgG1, IgG2), and induces strong responses from B lymphocytes, CD4 T-helper lymphocytes, and CD8 T-cytotoxic lymphocytes. COVCCF induces cytokines important to innate immunity, including IFN-γ, IL4, and IL10. Additionally, COVCCF has ideal pharmacokinetic properties and low immune-related toxicities. In summary, this study provides a powerful, computational vaccine design platform for rapid development of vaccine candidates (including COVCCF) for effective prevention of COVID-19.
Communicated by Ramaswamy H. Sarma
Developing effective strategies to prevent or treat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) requires understanding the natural immune response to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We used an unbiased, genome-wide screening technology to determine the precise peptide sequences in SARS-CoV-2 that are recognized by the memory CD8⁺ T cells of COVID-19 patients. In total, we identified 3–8 epitopes for each of the 6 most prevalent human leukocyte antigen (HLA) types. These epitopes were broadly shared across patients and located in regions of the virus that are not subject to mutational variation. Notably, only 3 of the 29 shared epitopes were located in the spike protein, whereas most epitopes were located in ORF1ab or the nucleocapsid protein. We also found that CD8⁺ T cells generally do not cross-react with epitopes in the four seasonal coronaviruses that cause the common cold. Overall, these findings can inform development of next-generation vaccines that better recapitulate natural CD8⁺ T cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in late 2019 in China and caused a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. To mitigate the public health, economic and societal impacts of the virus, a vaccine is urgently needed. The development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines was initiated in early January 2020 when the sequence of the virus became available and moved at record speed with one Phase I trial already starting in March 2020 and currently more than 180 vaccines in various stages of development. Phase I/II trial data is already available for several vaccine candidates and many have moved into Phase III trials. The data available so far suggests that effective and safe vaccines might become available within months rather than years.
Single stranded RNA viruses were known to cause variety of diseases since many years and are gaining much importance due to pandemic after the identification of a novel corona virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)). Seven coronaviruses (CoVs) are known to infect humans and they are OC43 CoV, NL63 CoV, HKU1 CoV, Middle East respiratory syndrome, SARS CoV, and SARS CoV-2. Virus replication weakens the immune system of host thereby altering T-cell count and much of interferon response. Although no vaccine or therapeutic treatment has been approved till now for CoV infection, trials of vaccine against SARS CoV-2 are in progress. One of the epitopes used for vaccine production is of the spike protein on the surface of virus. The work focuses on designing of multi-epitope vaccine construct for treatment of seven human CoV infections using the epitopes present on the spike protein of human CoVs. To address this, immuno-informatics techniques have been employed to design multi-epitope vaccine construct. B- and T-cell epitopes of the spike proteins have been predicted and designed into a multi-epitope vaccine construct. The tertiary structure of the vaccine construct along with the adjuvant has been modelled and the physiochemical properties have been predicted. The multi-epitope vaccine construct has antigenic and non-allergenic property. After validation, refinement and disulphide engineering of the vaccine construct, molecular docking with toll-like receptors (TLRs) have been performed. Molecular dynamics simulation in aqueous environment predicted that the vaccine-TLRs complexes were stable. The vaccine construct is predicted to be able to trigger primary immune response in silico.
Communicated by Ramaswamy H. Sarma
We present a combinatorial machine learning method to evaluate and optimize peptide vaccine formulations for SARS-CoV-2. Our approach optimizes the presentation likelihood of a diverse set of vaccine peptides conditioned on a target human-population HLA haplotype distribution and expected epitope drift. Our proposed SARS-CoV-2 MHC class I vaccine formulations provide 93.21% predicted population coverage with at least five vaccine peptide-HLA average hits per person (≥ 1 peptide: 99.91%) with all vaccine peptides perfectly conserved across 4,690 geographically sampled SARS-CoV-2 genomes. Our proposed MHC class II vaccine formulations provide 97.21% predicted coverage with at least five vaccine peptide-HLA average hits per person with all peptides having an observed mutation probability of ≤ 0.001. We provide an open-source implementation of our design methods (OptiVax), vaccine evaluation tool (EvalVax), as well as the data used in our design efforts here: https://github.com/gifford-lab/optivax.
World is witnessing exponential growth of SARS-CoV2 and fatal outcomes of COVID 19 has proved its pandemic potential already by claiming more than 3 lakhs deaths globally. If not controlled, this ongoing pandemic can cause irreparable socio-economic and psychological impact worldwide. Therefore a safe and effective vaccine against COVID 19 is exigent. Recent advances in immunoinformatics approaches could potentially decline the attrition rate and accelerate the process of vaccine development in these unprecedented times. In the present study, a multivalent subunit vaccine targeting S2 subunit of the SARS-CoV2 S glycoprotein has been designed using open source, immunoinformatics tools. Designed construct comprises of epitopes capable of inducing T cell, B cell (Linear and discontinuous) and Interferon γ. physiologically, vaccine construct is predicted to be thermostable, antigenic, immunogenic, non allergen and non toxic in nature. According to population coverage analysis, designed multiepitope vaccine covers 99.26% population globally. 3D structure of vaccine construct was designed, validated and refined to obtain high quality structure. Refined structure was docked against Toll like receptors to confirm the interactions between them. Vaccine peptide sequence was reverse transcribed, codon optimized and cloned in pET vector. Our in-silico study suggests that proposed vaccine against fusion domain of virus has the potential to elicit an innate as well as humoral immune response in human and restrict the entry of virus inside the cell. Results of the study offer a framework for in-vivo analysis that may hasten the process of development of therapeutic tools against COVID 19.
Communicated by Ramaswamy H. Sarma
SARS-CoV-2 is the deadly virus behind COVID-19, the disease that went on to ravage the world and caused the biggest pandemic 21st century has witnessed so far. On the face of ongoing death and destruction, the urgent need for the discovery of a vaccine against the virus is paramount. This study resorted to the emerging discipline of immunoinformatics in order to design a multi-epitope mRNA vaccine against the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2. Various immunoinformatics tools were utilized to predict T and B lymphocyte epitopes. The epitopes were channeled through a filtering pipeline comprised of antigenicity, toxicity, allergenicity, and cytokine inducibility evaluation with the goal of selecting epitopes capable of generating both T and B cell-mediated immune responses. Molecular docking simulation between the epitopes and their corresponding MHC molecules was carried out. 13 epitopes, a highly immunogenic adjuvant, elements for proper sub-cellular trafficking, a secretion booster, and appropriate linkers were combined for constructing the vaccine. The vaccine was found to be antigenic, almost neutral at physiological pH, non-toxic, non-allergenic, capable of generating a robust immune response and had a decent worldwide population coverage. Based on these parameters, this design can be considered a promising choice for a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 is a public health emergency of international concern and thus calling for the development of effective and safe therapeutics and prophylactics particularly a vaccine to protect against the infection. SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein is an attractive candidate for a vaccine, antibodies, and inhibitors development because of the many roles it plays in attachment, fusion and entry into the host cell. In the present investigation, we characterized the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein by immunoinformatics techniques to put forward potential B and T cell epitopes, followed by the use of epitopes in construction of a multi-epitope peptide vaccine construct (MEPVC). The MEPVC revealed robust host immune system simulation with high production of immunoglobulins, cytokines and interleukins. Stable conformation of the MEPVC with a representative innate immune TLR3 receptor was observed involving strong hydrophobic and hydrophilic chemical interactions, along with enhanced contribution from salt-bridges towards inter-molecular stability. Molecular dynamics simulation in aqueous milieu aided further in interpreting strong affinity of the MEPVC for TLR3. This stability is the attribute of several vital residues from both TLR3 and MEPVC as shown by radial distribution function (RDF) and a novel axial frequency distribution (AFD) analytical tool. Comprehensive binding free energies estimation was provided at the end that concluded major domination by electrostatic and minor from van der Waals. Summing all, the designed MEPVC has tremendous potential of providing protective immunity against COVID-19 and thus could be considered in experimental studies.
Understanding the properties and mechanisms by which antibodies provide protection is essential to defining immunity. Although neutralizing antibodies have been proposed as a potential key mechanism of protection against many viral pathogens, antibodies mediate additional immune functions that may have both protective and pathological consequences. Dissecting these properties against SARS-CoV-2 is likely necessary for defining metrics of immunity that will inform the design of vaccines and therapeutics and improve clinical management. Beyond neutralization, antibodies have immune-modulating functions that can be protective but, in some cases, can enhance pathology. Understanding these functions is critical for the development of safe vaccines and antibody therapies for COVID-19.