Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Produces Spikes Similar to SARS-CoV-2’s

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Southampton report that cells infected with the ChAdOx1 vaccine produce spike proteins on the cells similar to those produced by natural SARS-CoV-2 infection. The researchers used HeLa S3 cells infected with the ChAdOx1 vaccine to detect the presence of spike protein on the cell surface. Vaccinated mice sera showed about 60-70% of the cells expressed the spike protein.

Testing using recombinant angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and human monoclonal antibodies confirmed that the spike protein is present in the correct conformation, just like that on the wild-type virus. The team then used cryo-electron tomography on cells infected with the vaccine to understand the spike’s structure on the cells.

They saw the surface of the cells were covered with protrusions, similar to the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2. Further image analysis of the protrusions revealed their structure is very similar to the spike protein conformation before membrane fusion. The spike protein’s presence on vaccinated cells provides good evidence that the vaccine can generate a strong immune response. Unlike some other vaccines, the ChAdOx1 vaccine does not use any mutations on the spike protein to ensure its stability.

The virus spike protein also has glycans, a type of sugar, coating it, which disguise the virus so that the host immune response does not detect the virus. This is a common strategy used by many viruses to elude the host immune system. It is crucial that the spike proteins produced by vaccination also produce these glycans to ensure complete mimicking of the virus for the production of suitable neutralizing antibodies. Thus, the results reveal that vaccination by ChAdOx1 produces spike protein that is very similar to that produced by the SARS-CoV-2 virus upon natural infection, providing more evidence that the vaccine is triggering the immune system to fight COVID-19.

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Ref Link: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acscentsci.1c00080