Modular capsid decoration boosts adenovirus vaccine-induced humoral immunity against SARS-CoV-2

Matthew D.J. Dicks*, Louisa M. Rose, Rebecca A. Russell, Lesley A.H. Bowman, Carl Graham, Jose M. Jimenez-Guardeño, Katie J. Doores, Michael H. Malim, Simon J. Draper, Mark Howarth, Sumi Biswas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Adenovirus vector vaccines have been widely and successfully deployed in response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, despite inducing potent T cell immunity, improvement of vaccine-specific antibody responses upon homologous boosting is modest compared with other technologies. Here, we describe a system enabling modular decoration of adenovirus capsid surfaces with antigens and demonstrate potent induction of humoral immunity against these displayed antigens. Ligand attachment via a covalent bond was achieved using a protein superglue, DogTag/DogCatcher (similar to SpyTag/SpyCatcher), in a rapid and spontaneous reaction requiring only co-incubation of ligand and vector components. DogTag was inserted into surface-exposed loops in the adenovirus hexon protein to allow attachment of DogCatcher-fused ligands on virus particles. Efficient coverage of the capsid surface was achieved using various ligands, with vector infectivity retained in each case. Capsid decoration shielded particles from vector neutralizing antibodies. In prime-boost regimens, adenovirus vectors decorated with the receptor-binding domain of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike induced >10-fold higher SARS-CoV-2 neutralization titers compared with an undecorated vector encoding spike. Importantly, decorated vectors achieved equivalent or superior T cell immunogenicity against encoded antigens compared with undecorated vectors. We propose capsid decoration using protein superglues as a novel strategy to improve efficacy and boostability of adenovirus-based vaccines and therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3639-3657
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2022


  • adenovirus
  • protein superglue
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • vaccine vector
  • vector engineering


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