Cellular and humoral immune responses in mice immunized with vaccinia virus expressing the sars-cov-2 spike protein

Jake C. Harbour, Zoe L. Lyski, John B. Schell, Archana Thomas, William B. Messer, Mark K. Slifka, Jeffrey C. Nolz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health emergency, and the development of a successful vaccine will ultimately be required to prevent the continued spread and seasonal recurrence of this disease within the human population. However, very little is known about either the quality of the adaptive immune response or the viral Ag targets that will be necessary to prevent the spread of the infection. In this study, we generated recombinant Vaccinia virus expressing the full-length spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 (VacV-S) to evaluate the cellular and humoral immune response mounted against this viral Ag in mice. Both CD8+ and CD4+ T cells specific to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein underwent robust expansion, contraction, and persisted for at least 40 d following a single immunization with VacV-S. Vaccination also caused the rapid emergence of spike-specific IgG-neutralizing Abs. Interestingly, both the cellular and humoral immune responses strongly targeted the S1 domain of spike following VacV-S immunization. Notably, immunization with VacV-expressing spike conjugated to the MHC class II invariant chain, a strategy previously reported by us and others to enhance the immunogenicity of antigenic peptides, did not promote stronger spike-specific T cell or Ab responses in vivo. Overall, these findings demonstrate that an immunization approach using VacV or attenuated versions of VacV expressing the native, full-length SARS-CoV-2 spike protein could be used for further vaccine development to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2596-2604
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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