The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to accelerated efforts to develop therapeutics and vaccines. A key target of these efforts is the spike (S) protein, which is metastable and difficult to produce recombinantly. We characterized 100 structure-guided spike designs and identified 26 individual substitutions that increased protein yields and stability. Testing combinations of beneficial substitutions resulted in the identification of HexaPro, a variant with six beneficial proline substitutions exhibiting higher expression than its parental construct (by a factor of 10) as well as the ability to withstand heat stress, storage at room temperature, and three freeze-thaw cycles. A cryo-electron microscopy structure of HexaPro at a resolution of 3.2 angstroms confirmed that it retains the prefusion spike conformation. High-yield production of a stabilized prefusion spike protein will accelerate the development of vaccines and serological diagnostics for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
ASJC Scopus subject areas