Flavivirus infections are emerging as significant threats to human health around the globe. Among them West Nile(WNV) and Dengue Virus (DV) are the most prevalent in causing human disease with WNV outbreaks occurring in all areas around the world and DV epidemics in more than 100 countries. WNV is a neurotropic virus capable of causing meningitis and encephalitis in humans. Currently, there are no therapeutic treatments or vaccines available. The expanding epidemic of WNV demands studies that develop efficacious therapeutics and vaccines and produce them rapidly and inexpensively. In response, our lab developed a plant-derived monoclonal antibody (mAb) (pHu-E16) against DIII (WNV antigen) that is able to neutralize and prevent mice from lethal infection. However, this drug has a short window of efficacy due to pHu-E16's inability to cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) and enter the brain. Here, we constructed a bifunctional diabody, which couples the neutralizing activity of E16 and BBB penetrating activity of 8D3 mAb. We also produced a plant-derived E16 scFv-CH1-3 variant with equivalent specific binding as the full pHu-E16 mAb, but only requiring one gene construct for production. Furthermore, a WNV vaccine based on plant-derived DIII was developed showing proper folding and potentially protective immune response in mice. DV causes severe hemorrhaging diseases especially in people exposed to secondary DV infection from a heterotypic strain. It is hypothesized that sub-neutralizing cross-reactive antibodies from the first exposure aid the second infection in a process called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). ADE depends on the ability of mAb to bind Fc receptors (FcγRs), and has become a major roadblock for developing mAb-based therapeutics against DV. We aim to produce an anti-Dengue mAb (E60) in different glycoengineered plant lines that exhibit reduced/differential binding to FcγRs, therefore, reducing or eliminating ADE. We have successfully cloned the molecular constructs of E60, and expressed it in two plant lines with different glycosylation patterns. We demonstrated that both plant-derived E60 mAb glycoforms retained specific recognition and neutralization activity against DV. Overall, our study demonstrates great strives to develop efficacious therapeutics and potent vaccine candidates against Flaviviruses in plant expression systems.
- Molecular design and functional characterization portfolio of flavivirus therapeutics
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by Jonathan Hurtado