A computationally designed ACE2 decoy has broad efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 omicron variants and related viruses in vitro and in vivo

Brandon Havranek, Graeme Walker Lindsey, Yusuke Higuchi, Yumi Itoh, Tatsuya Suzuki, Toru Okamoto, Atsushi Hoshino, Erik Procko, Shahidul M. Islam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

SARS-CoV-2, especially B.1.1.529/omicron and its sublineages, continues to mutate to evade monoclonal antibodies and antibodies elicited by vaccination. Affinity-enhanced soluble ACE2 (sACE2) is an alternative strategy that works by binding the SARS-CoV-2 S protein, acting as a ‘decoy’ to block the interaction between the S and human ACE2. Using a computational design strategy, we designed an affinity-enhanced ACE2 decoy, FLIF, that exhibited tight binding to SARS-CoV-2 delta and omicron variants. Our computationally calculated absolute binding free energies (ABFE) between sACE2:SARS-CoV-2 S proteins and their variants showed excellent agreement to binding experiments. FLIF displayed robust therapeutic utility against a broad range of SARS-CoV-2 variants and sarbecoviruses, and neutralized omicron BA.5 in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, we directly compared the in vivo therapeutic efficacy of wild-type ACE2 (non-affinity enhanced ACE2) against FLIF. A few wild-type sACE2 decoys have shown to be effective against early circulating variants such as Wuhan in vivo. Our data suggest that moving forward, affinity-enhanced ACE2 decoys like FLIF may be required to combat evolving SARS-CoV-2 variants. The approach described herein emphasizes how computational methods have become sufficiently accurate for the design of therapeutics against viral protein targets. Affinity-enhanced ACE2 decoys remain highly effective at neutralizing omicron subvariants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number513
JournalCommunications biology
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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