SpySwitch enables pH- or heat-responsive capture and release for plug-and-display nanoassembly.
Vester SK., Rahikainen R., Khairil Anuar INA., Hills RA., Tan TK., Howarth M.
Proteins can be empowered via SpyTag for anchoring and nanoassembly, through covalent bonding to SpyCatcher partners. Here we generate a switchable version of SpyCatcher, allowing gentle purification of SpyTagged proteins. We introduce numerous histidines adjacent to SpyTag's binding site, giving moderate pH-dependent release. After phage-based selection, our final SpySwitch allows purification of SpyTag- and SpyTag003-fusions from bacterial or mammalian culture by capture at neutral pH and release at pH 5, with purity far beyond His-tag methods. SpySwitch is also thermosensitive, capturing at 4 °C and releasing at 37 °C. With flexible choice of eluent, SpySwitch-purified proteins can directly assemble onto multimeric scaffolds. 60-mer multimerization enhances immunogenicity and we use SpySwitch to purify receptor-binding domains from SARS-CoV-2 and 11 other sarbecoviruses. For these receptor-binding domains we determine thermal resilience (for mosaic vaccine development) and cross-recognition by antibodies. Antibody EY6A reacts across all tested sarbecoviruses, towards potential application against new coronavirus pandemic threats.