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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.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Animals, Antibodies, COVID-19, Hot Temperature, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Mammals, SARS-CoV-2