SARS-CoV-2 vaccines aim to protect against COVID-19 through neutralizing antibodies against the viral spike protein. Mutations within the spike’s receptor-binding domain may eventually reduce vaccine efficacy, necessitating periodic updates. Vaccine-induced immunity could be broadened by adding T cell-inducing antigens such as SARS-CoV-2’s nucleoprotein (N). Here we describe two replication-defective chimpanzee adenovirus (AdC) vectors from different serotypes expressing SARS-CoV-2 N either in its wild-type form or fused into herpes simplex virus glycoprotein D (gD), an inhibitor of an early T cell checkpoint. The vaccines induce potent and sustained CD8+ T cell responses that are broadened upon inclusion of gD. Depending on the vaccine regimen booster immunizations increase magnitude and breadth of T cell responses. Epitopes that are recognized by the vaccine-induced T cells are highly conserved among global SARS-CoV-2 isolates indicating that addition of N to COVID-19 vaccines may lessen the risk of loss of vaccine-induced protection due to variants.
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