Nearly four decades after HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) was identified as the causal agent of the AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) pandemic, it remains a top global health concern impacting millions of people around the world particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite significant scientific, governmental and nongovernmental organizational efforts, most HIV-infected patients do not have access to prevention and treatment. Since cure is not available yet, developing a vaccine to prevent HIV from spreading is a priority. Previous studies have worked on an HIV vaccine platform using attenuated Vaccinia vector and plant-produced HIV virus-like particles (VLPs) to deliver Gag and dgp41 antigens as a heterologous prime-boost strategy. To further study this work, I conducted immunogenicity studies in rabbits which exhibited high IgG responses against Gag (p < 0.002) and less to dgp41. To increase the immunogenicity to dgp41, focusing on MPER, a combination of IgG fusions with VLPs as a vaccine platform was studied in mice. Both IgG fusion constructs showed similar serum results, though Gag-specific serum IgG responses were significantly higher (p < 0.007) for the recombinant immune complex (RIC) group than hexamer forming complexes (Hex). In an effort to expand the use of HIV VLPs, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) pre-fusion stabilized F (pre-F) protein was presented by self-assembling HIV-1 Gag as a potential vaccine strategy for RSV infections. Multiple constructs were designed to assemble into chimeric VLPs and tested for recombinant plant expression. Mouse immunogenicity study using these chimeric VLPs showed significantly high F-specific IgG (p < 0.001) in serum and superior IgA in mucosal samples for the group that received one of the pre-F stabilized VLP constructs. Moreover, when the same antigen was administered with cholera toxin intranasally, it generated IgA response in nasal flush higher than when it was administered subcutaneously. To summarize, this study showed the efficiency of a plant-produced VLP-based system as an adaptable chimeric vaccine platform for potential use with various viral antigens in pursuit of a vaccine strategy that is immunogenic in animal studies.
- Plant-derived HIV-1 VLPs as Vaccine Candidates And as Antigen Presentation Platforms