Mechanism Underlying the Immune Responses of a Sublingual Vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 with RBD Antigen and Adjuvant, Poly(I:C) or AddaS03, in Non-human Primates

Author(s): Tetsuro Yamamoto, Fusako Mitsunaga, Kunihiko Wasaki, Atsushi Kotani, Kazuki Tajima, Masanori Tanji, and Shin Nakamura

A sublingual vaccine formulated with recombinant SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) antigen and Poly(I:C) adjuvant was assessed for its safety in non-human primates. This Poly(I:C)-adjuvanted sublingual vaccine was safe compared to the AddaS03-adjuvanted vaccine in blood tests and plasma CRP. The safety of the vaccine was also confirmed through quantitative reverse transcription PCR of six genes and ELISA of four cytokines associated with inflammation and related reactions. The Poly(I:C)- or AddaS03- adjuvanted sublingual vaccine produced RBD-specific IgA antibodies in nasal washings, saliva, and plasma. SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies were detected in plasma, suggesting that adjuvanted-sublingual vaccines protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection. “Yin and Yang” -like unique transcriptional regulation was observed through DNA microarray analyses of white blood cell RNAs from both vaccines, suppressing and enhancing immune responses and up- or downregulating genes associated with these immune responses. Poly(I:C) adjuvanted sublingual vaccination induced atypical up- or downregulation of genes related to immune suppression or tolerance; Treg differentiation; and T-cell exhaustion. Therefore, Poly(I:C) adjuvant is safe and favorable for sublingual vaccination and can induce a balanced “Yin/Yang” -like effect on immune responses.

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