Cytoplasmic tail truncation of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein enhances titer of pseudotyped vectors but masks the effect of the D614G mutation

Hsu Yu Chen, Chun Huang, Lu Tian, Xiaoli Huang, Chennan Zhang, George N. Llewellyn, Geoffrey L. Rogers, Kevin Andresen, Maurice R.G. O'Gorman, Ya Wen Chen, Paula M. Cannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The high pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 requires it to be handled under biosafety level 3 conditions. Consequently, Spike protein-pseudotyped vectors are a useful tool to study viral entry and its inhibition, with retroviral, lentiviral (LV), and vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vectors the most commonly used systems. Methods to increase the titer of such vectors commonly include concentration by ultracentrifugation and truncation of the Spike protein cytoplasmic tail. However, limited studies have examined whether such a modification also impacts the protein's function. Here, we optimized concentration methods for SARS-CoV-2 Spike-pseudotyped VSV vectors, finding that tangential flow filtration produced vectors with more consistent titers than ultracentrifugation. We also examined the impact of Spike tail truncation on transduction of various cell types and sensitivity to convalescent serum neutralization. We found that tail truncation increased Spike incorporation into both LV and VSV vectors and resulted in enhanced titers but had no impact on sensitivity to convalescent serum. In addition, we analyzed the effect of the D614G mutation, which became a dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant early in the pandemic. Our studies revealed that, similar to the tail truncation, D614G independently increases Spike incorporation and vector titers, but this effect is masked by also including the cytoplasmic tail truncation. Therefore, the use of full-length Spike protein, combined with tangential flow filtration, is recommended as a method to generate high titer pseudotyped vectors that retain native Spike protein functions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00966-21
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytoplasmic tail truncation
  • D614G mutation
  • Pseudotyped vectors
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spike protein


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