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Intranasal delivery of an adenovirus-vector vaccine co-expressing a modified spike protein and a genetic adjuvant confers lasting mucosal immunity against SARS-CoV-2

Jung, HE;Ku, KB;Kang, BH;Park, JH;Kim, HC;Kim, KD;Lee, HK;

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection has threatened global health. Since the first case of infection was reported in December 2019, SARS-CoV-2 has rapidly spread worldwide and caused millions of deaths. As vaccination is the best way to protect the host from invading pathogens, several vaccines have been developed to prevent the infection of SARS-CoV-2, saving numerous lives thus far. However, SARS-CoV-2 constantly changes its antigens, resulting in escape from vaccine-induced protection, and the longevity of immunity induced by vaccines remains an issue. Additionally, traditional intramuscular COVID-19 vaccines are insufficient at evoking mucosal-specific immune responses. Because the respiratory tract is the primary route of SARS-CoV-2 entry, the need for mucosal vaccines is strong. Using an adenoviral (Ad) vector platform, we generated Ad5-S.Mod, a recombinant COVID-19 vaccine that encodes modified-spike (S) antigen and the genetic adjuvant human CXCL9. Intranasal delivery of Ad5-S.Mod elicited superior airway humoral and T-cell responses over traditional intramuscular vaccines and protected mice from lethal SARS-CoV-2 infection. cDC1 cells were required for the generation of antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell responses and CD8+ tissue-resident memory T-cell development in intranasal Ad5-S.Mod vaccinated mice. Furthermore, we confirmed the efficacy of the intranasal Ad5-S.Mod vaccine in terms of transcriptional changes and identified lung macrophages as a key supporter of maintenance of lung-resident memory T and B cells. Our study demonstrates Ad5-S.Mod has the potential to confer protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and that lung macrophages support the maintenance of vaccine-induced tissue-resident memory lymphocytes.