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Crop Biotech Update

Plant-produced Zika Virus Vaccine Confers Protective Immunity in Mice

August 30, 2017

The global Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak and its link to fetal and newborn microcephaly and severe neurological complications in adults call for the urgent development of ZIKV vaccines. Arizona State University researchers, led by Ming Yang, developed a subunit vaccine based on the ZIKV envelope (E) protein and investigated its immunogenicity in mice.

Expression of ZIKV E (zE) in tobacco (Nicotiana benthamiana) resulted in rapid accumulation in plant leaves. Biochemical analysis revealed that plant-produced ZIKV E (PzE) exhibited specific binding to a panel of monoclonal antibodies that recognize various zE conformational epitopes. Furthermore, the PzE can be purified to >90% homogeneity with a one-step chromatography process.

Two doses of PzE drew out both potent zE-specific antibody and cellular immune responses in mice. Most importantly, the concentration of zE-specific and neutralizing antibodies exceeded the threshold and correlates with protective immunity against multiple strains of ZIKV.

These results demonstrate the feasibility of plant-produced ZIKV protein antigen as effective, safe and affordable vaccines against ZIKV.

For more on this study, read the article in Plant Biotechnology Journal.