Generation and Analysis of Novel Plant-Derived Antibody-Based Therapeutic Molecules against West Nile Virus

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Previously, our group engineered a plant-derived monoclonal antibody (MAb) (pHu-E16) that efficiently treated West Nile virus (WNV) infection in mice. In this study, we developed several pHu-E16 variants to improve

Previously, our group engineered a plant-derived monoclonal antibody (MAb) (pHu-E16) that efficiently treated West Nile virus (WNV) infection in mice. In this study, we developed several pHu-E16 variants to improve its efficacy. These variants included a single-chain variable fragment (scFv) of pHu-E16 fused to the heavy chain (HC) constant domains (CH1-3) of human IgG (pHu-E16scFv-CH1-3) and a tetravalent molecule (Tetra pHu-E16) assembled from pHu-E16scFv-CH1-3 with a second pHu-E16scFv fused to the light chain (LC) constant region. pHu-E16scFv-CH1-3 and Tetra pHu-E16 were efficiently expressed and assembled in plants. To assess the impact of differences in N-linked glycosylation on pHu-E16 variant assembly and function, we expressed additional pHu-E16 variants with various combinations of HC and LC components. Our study revealed that proper pairing of HC and LC was essential for the complete N-glycan processing of antibodies in both plant and animal cells. Associated with their distinct N-glycoforms, pHu-E16, pHu-E16scFv-CH1-3 and Tetra pHu-E16 exhibited differential binding to C1q and specific Fcγ receptors (FcγR). Notably, none of the plant-derived Hu-E16 variants showed antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) activity in CD32A+ human cells, suggesting the potential of plant-produced antibodies to minimize the adverse effect of ADE. Importantly, all plant-derived MAb variants exhibited at least equivalent in vitro neutralization and in vivo protection in mice compared to mammalian cell-produced Hu-E16. This study demonstrates the capacity of plants to express and assemble a large, complex and functional IgG-like tetravalent mAb variant and also provides insight into the relationship between MAb N-glycosylation, FcγR and C1q binding, and ADE. These new insights may allow the development of safer and cost effective MAb-based therapeutics for flaviviruses, and possibly other pathogens.