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The Development of a Plant-Expressed M2e-Based Universal Influenza Vaccine

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Influenza is a deadly disease for which effective vaccines are sorely lacking. This is largely due to the phenomena of antigenic shift and drift in the influenza virus's surface proteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). The ectodomain of the matrix

Influenza is a deadly disease for which effective vaccines are sorely lacking. This is largely due to the phenomena of antigenic shift and drift in the influenza virus's surface proteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). The ectodomain of the matrix 2 protein (M2e) of influenza A, however, has demonstrated high levels of conservation. On its own it is poorly immunogenic and offers little protection against influenza infections, but by combining it with a potent adjuvant, this limitation may be overcome. Recombinant immune complexes, or antigens fused to antibodies that have been engineered to form incredibly immunogenic complexes with one another, were previously shown to be useful, immunogenic platforms for the presentation of various antigens and could provide the boost in immunogenicity that M2e needs to become a powerful universal influenza A vaccine. In this thesis, genetic constructs containing geminiviral replication proteins and coding for a consensus sequence of dimeric M2e fused to antibodies featuring complimentary epitopes and epitope tags were generated and used to transform Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The transformed bacteria was then used to cause Nicotiana benthamiana to transiently express M2e-RICs at very high levels, with enough RICs being gathered to evaluate their potency in future mouse trials. Future directions and areas for further research are discussed.

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2018-05

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CXCL10-Induced Migration of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells

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Inhibitor of growth factor 4 (ING4) is a tumor suppressor of which low expression has been associated with poor patient survival and aggressive tumor progression in breast cancer. ING4 is characterized as a transcription regulator of inflammatory genes. Among the

Inhibitor of growth factor 4 (ING4) is a tumor suppressor of which low expression has been associated with poor patient survival and aggressive tumor progression in breast cancer. ING4 is characterized as a transcription regulator of inflammatory genes. Among the ING4-regulated genes is CXCL10, a chemokine secreted by endothelial cells during normal inflammation response, which induces chemotactic migration of immune cells to the site. High expression of CXCL10 has been implicated in aggressive breast cancer, but the mechanism is not well understood. A potential signaling molecule downstream of Cxcl10 is Janus Kinase 2 (Jak2), a kinase activated in normal immune response. Deregulation of Jak2 is associated with metastasis, immune evasion, and tumor progression in breast cancer. Thus, we hypothesized that the Ing4/Cxcl10/Jak2 axis plays a key role in breast cancer progression. We first investigated whether Cxcl10 affected breast cancer cell migration. We also investigated whether Cxcl10-mediated migration is dependent on ING4 expression levels. We utilized genetically engineered MDAmb231 breast cancer cells with a CRISPR/Cas9 ING4-knockout construct or a viral ING4 overexpression construct. We performed Western blot analysis to confirm Ing4 expression. Cell migration was assessed using Boyden Chamber assay with or without exogenous Cxcl10 treatment. The results showed that in the presence of Cxcl10, ING4-deficient cells had a two-fold increase in migration as compared to the vector controls, suggesting Ing4 inhibits Cxcl10-induced migration. These findings support our hypothesis that ING4-deficient tumor cells have increased migration when Cxcl10 signaling is present in breast cancer. These results implicate Ing4 is a key regulator of a chemokine-induced tumor migration. Our future plan includes evaluation of Jak2 as an intermediate signaling molecule in Cxcl10/Ing4 pathway. Therapeutic implications of these findings are targeting Cxcl10 and/or Jak2 may be effective in treating ING4-deficient aggressive breast cancer.

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2019-05

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CHALLENGES IN THE EXPRESSION AND PURIFICATION OF INTERCELLULAR ADHESION MOLECULE- 1

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The Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1 (ICAM-1, known as CD54) is a cell surface type I transmembrane glycoprotein with a molecular weight of 85 to 110 kDa. The primary function of ICAM-1 is to provide adhesion between endothelial cells and leukocytes after

The Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1 (ICAM-1, known as CD54) is a cell surface type I transmembrane glycoprotein with a molecular weight of 85 to 110 kDa. The primary function of ICAM-1 is to provide adhesion between endothelial cells and leukocytes after injury or stress. ICAM-1 is used as a receptor for various pathogens such as rhinoviruses, coxsackievirus A21 and the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. ICAM-1 contains five immunoglobulin (Ig) domains in its long N-terminal extracellular region, a hydrophobic transmembrane domain, and a small C-terminal cytoplasmic domain. The Ig domains 1-2 and Ig domains 3-4-5 have been crystallized separately and their structure solved, however the full ICAM-1 structure has not been solved. Because ICAM-1 appears to be important for the mediation of cell-to-cell communication in physiological and pathological conditions, gaining a structural understanding of the full-length membrane anchored ICAM-1 is desirable. In this context, we have transiently expressed a plant-optimized gene encoding human ICAM-1 in Nicotiana benthamiana plants using the MagnICON expression system. The plant produced ICAM-1 is forming aggregates according to previous data. Thus, the current extraction and purification protocols have been altered to include TCEP, a reducing agent. The protein was purified using TALON metal affinity resin and partially characterized using various biochemical techniques. Our results show that there is a reduction in aggregation formation with the use of TCEP.

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2015-05

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Is a putative plant-derived analog of the mammalian proline-rich attachment domain causing a human enzyme expressed in plants to undergo tetramerization?

Description

Variants of human butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) have been designed to have high cocaine hydrolytic activity. These variants have potential pharmacological applications toward treating cocaine overdose and addiction. These enzymes must be stable in the human body over fairly long periods of

Variants of human butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) have been designed to have high cocaine hydrolytic activity. These variants have potential pharmacological applications toward treating cocaine overdose and addiction. These enzymes must be stable in the human body over fairly long periods of time in order to be effective at treating cocaine addiction. Recombinantly expressed BChE, however, tends to be in monomer or dimer oligomeric forms, which are far less stable than the tetramer form of the enzyme. When BChE is transiently expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana, it is produced mainly as monomers and dimers. However, when the protein is expressed through stable transformation, it produces much greater proportions of tetramers. Tetramerization of WT human plasma derived BChE is facilitated by the binding of a proline rich peptide. In this thesis, I investigated if a putative plant-derived analog of the mammalian proline-rich attachment domain caused stably expressed cocaine hydrolase variants of human BChE to undergo tetramerization. I also examined if co-expression of peptides with known proline-rich attachment domains further shifted the monomer-tetramer ratio toward the tetramer.

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2015-05

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Biological and immunological characterization of plant-produced HIV-1 Gag/dgp41 virus-like particles

Description

Anti-retroviral drugs and AIDS prevention programs have helped to decrease the rate of new HIV-1 infections in some communities, however, a prophylactic vaccine is still needed to control the epidemic world-wide. Despite over two decades of research, a vaccine against

Anti-retroviral drugs and AIDS prevention programs have helped to decrease the rate of new HIV-1 infections in some communities, however, a prophylactic vaccine is still needed to control the epidemic world-wide. Despite over two decades of research, a vaccine against HIV-1 remains elusive, although recent clinical trials have shown promising results. Recent successes have focused on highly conserved, mucosally-targeted antigens within HIV-1 such as the membrane proximal external region (MPER) of the envelope protein, gp41. MPER has been shown to play critical roles in the viral mucosal transmission, though this peptide is not immunogenic on its own. Gag is a structural protein configuring the enveloped virus particles, and has been suggested to constitute a target of the cellular immunity potentially controlling the viral load. It was hypothesized that HIV-1 enveloped virus-like particles (VLPs) consisting of Gag and a deconstructed form of gp41 comprising the MPER, transmembrane, and cytoplasmic domains (dgp41) could be expressed in plants. Plant-optimized HIV-1 genes were constructed and expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana by stable transformation, or transiently using a tobacco mosaic virus-based expression system or a combination of both. Results of biophysical, biochemical and electron microscopy characterization demonstrated that plant cells could support not only the formation of HIV-1 Gag VLPs, but also the accumulation of VLPs that incorporated dgp41. These particles were purified and utilized in mice immunization experiments. Prime-boost strategies combining systemic and mucosal priming with systemic boosting using two different vaccine candidates (VLPs and CTB-MPR - a fusion of MPER and the B-subunit of cholera toxin) were administered to BALB/c mice. Serum antibody responses against both the Gag and gp41 antigens could be elicited in mice systemically primed with VLPs and these responses could be recalled following systemic boosting with VLPs. In addition, mucosal priming with VLPs allowed for a robust boosting response against Gag and gp41 when boosted with either candidate. Functional assays of these antibodies are in progress to test the antibodies' effectiveness in neutralizing and preventing mucosal transmission of HIV-1. This immunogenicity of plant-based Gag/dgp41 VLPs represents an important milestone on the road towards a broadly-efficacious and inexpensive subunit vaccine against HIV-1.

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Date Created
2011

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Improving expression vectors for recombinant protein production in plants

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Over the past decade, several high-value proteins have been produced using plant-based transient expression systems. However, these studies exposed some limitations that must be overcome to allow plant expression systems to reach their full potential. These limitations are the low

Over the past decade, several high-value proteins have been produced using plant-based transient expression systems. However, these studies exposed some limitations that must be overcome to allow plant expression systems to reach their full potential. These limitations are the low level of recombinant protein accumulation achieved in some cases, and lack of efficient co-expression vectors for the production of multi-protein complexes. This study report that tobacco Extensin (Ext) gene 3' untranslated region (UTR) can be broadly used to enhance recombinant protein expression in plants. Extensin is the hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein that constitutes the major protein component of cell walls. Using transient expression, it was found that the Ext 3' UTR increases recombinant protein expression up to 13.5- and 6-fold in non-replicating and replicating vector systems, respectively, compared to previously established terminators. Enhanced protein accumulation was correlated with increased mRNA levels associated with reduction in read-through transcription. Regions of Ext 3' UTR essential for maximum gene expression included a poly-purine sequence used as a major poly-adenylation site. Furthermore, modified bean yellow dwarf virus (BeYDV)-based vectors designed to allow co-expression of multiple recombinant genes were constructed and tested for their performance in driving transient expression in plants. Robust co-expression and assembly of heavy and light chains of the anti-Ebola virus monoclonal antibody 6D8, as well as E. coli heat-labile toxin (LT) were achieved with the modified vectors. The simultaneous co-expression of three fluoroproteins using the single replicon, triple cassette is demonstrated by confocal microscopy. In conclusion, this study provides an excellent tool for rapid, cost-effective, large-scale manufacturing of recombinant proteins for use in medicine and industry.

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Date Created
2012

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Immunogenic subviral particles displaying domain III of dengue 2 envelope protein vectored by measles virus

Description

Vaccines against the arthropod-borne dengue virus (DENV) are still commercially nonexistent. A subunit immunization strategy may be of value, especially if a safe viral vector acts as a biologically active adjuvant. The DENV envelope protein (E), the main target for

Vaccines against the arthropod-borne dengue virus (DENV) are still commercially nonexistent. A subunit immunization strategy may be of value, especially if a safe viral vector acts as a biologically active adjuvant. The DENV envelope protein (E), the main target for neutralizing immune responses, has three conformational domains. The immunoglobulin-like and independently folding domain III (DIII) contains epitopes that elicit highly specific neutralizing antibodies. The hepatitis B small surface antigen (HBsAg, S) was used as a scaffold to display DENV 2 DIII on a virus-like particle (VLP). A measles virus (MV) was engineered to vector HBsAg and the hybrid glycoprotein DIII-HBsAg in two different loci (DIII-S). Despite the relatively deleterious effect on replication caused by the insertion of two transcription cassettes, the recombinant virus MVvac2(DIII-S,S)P induced the secretion of DIII-S hybrid VLP with a similar sucrose density as HBsAg particles (1.10-1.12g/ml) and peaked at 48 h post-infection producing 1.3x106 TCID50/ml infectious MV units in vitro. A second recombinant virus, MVvac2(DIII-S)N, was engineered to vector only the hybrid DIII-S. However, it did not induce the secretion of hybrid HBsAg particles in the supernatant of infected cells. The immunogenicity of the recombinant viruses was tested in a MV-susceptible small animal model, the experimental group which received two 105 TCID50 I.P. doses of MVvac2(DIII-S,S)P in a 28 day interval developed a robust immune response against MV (1:1280), HBsAg (787 mIU/ml) and DENV2 (Log10 neutralization index of 1.2) on average. In summary, it is possible to display DENV E DIII on hybrid HBsAg particles vectored by MV that elicit an immune response. This forms the basis for a potential vaccine platform against DENV.

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2015

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Towards a Structural and Functional Insight into the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – 1 Membrane Protein, Vpu.

Description

Viral protein U (Vpu) is a type-III integral membrane protein encoded by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 (HIV- 1). It is expressed in infected host cells and plays vital roles in down-regulation of CD4 receptors in T cells and also in

Viral protein U (Vpu) is a type-III integral membrane protein encoded by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 (HIV- 1). It is expressed in infected host cells and plays vital roles in down-regulation of CD4 receptors in T cells and also in the budding of virions. But, there remain key structure/function questions regarding the mechanisms by which the Vpu protein contributes to HIV-1 pathogenesis and thus, it makes for an attractive target to study the structural attributes of this protein by elucidating a structural model with X-ray crystallography. This study describes a multi-pronged approach of heterologous over-expression of Vpu. The strategies of purification and biophysical/ biochemical characterization of the different versions of the protein to evaluate their potential for crystallization are also detailed. Furthermore, various strategies employed for the crystallization of Vpu by both in surfo and in cubo techniques, and the challenges faced towards the structural studies of this membrane protein by characterization with solution Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy are also described.

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Date Created
2016

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A Plant Based Vaccine for Necrotic Enteritis in Chickens

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Necrotic enteritis (NE) is caused by type A strains of the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, leading to an estimated 2 billion dollar global economic loss in the poultry industry annually. Traditionally, NE has been effectively controlled by antibiotics added to the

Necrotic enteritis (NE) is caused by type A strains of the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, leading to an estimated 2 billion dollar global economic loss in the poultry industry annually. Traditionally, NE has been effectively controlled by antibiotics added to the diet of poultry. Concerns about increasing antibiotic resistance of poultry and human based pathogens have led to the consideration of alternative approaches for controlling disease, such as vaccination. NE causing strains of C. perfringens produce two major toxins, α-toxin and NetB. Immune responses against either toxin can provide partial protection against NE. We have developed a fusion protein combining a non-toxic carboxy-terminal domain of the α-toxin (PlcC) and an attenuated, mutant form of NetB (NetB-W262A) for use as a vaccine antigen to immunize poultry against NE. We utilized a DNA sequence that was codon-optimized for Nicotiana benthamiana to enable high levels of expression. The 6-His tagged PlcC-NetB fusion protein was synthesized in N. benthamiana using a geminiviral replicon transient expression system. The fusion protein was purified by metal affinity chromatography and used to immunize broiler birds. Immunized birds produced a strong serum IgY response against both the plant produced PlcC-NetB protein and against bacterially produced His-PlcC and His-NetB. However, the PlcC-NetB fusion had antibody titers four times that of the bacterially produced toxoids alone. Immunized birds were significantly protected against a subsequent in-feed challenge with virulent C. perfringens when treated with the fusion protein. These results indicate that a plant-produced PlcC-NetB is a promising vaccine candidate for controlling NE in poultry.

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Date Created
2018

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Vaccination strategy to protect against flavivirus infection based on recombinant measles vaccine

Description

Despite the approval of a Dengue virus (DV) vaccine in five endemic countries, dengue prevention would benefit from an immunization strategy highly immunogenic in young infants and not curtailed by viral interference. Problematically, infants younger than 9 year of age,

Despite the approval of a Dengue virus (DV) vaccine in five endemic countries, dengue prevention would benefit from an immunization strategy highly immunogenic in young infants and not curtailed by viral interference. Problematically, infants younger than 9 year of age, whom are particularly prone to Dengue severe infection and death, cannot be immunized using current approved DV vaccine. The most important issues documented so far are the lack of efficiency and enhancement of the disease in young seronegative recipients, as well as uneven protection against the four DV serotypes. Based on data from clinical trials that showed enhanced performance of dengue vaccines when the host has previous anti-flaviviral immunity, I proposed here an attractive solution to complement the current vaccine: a recombinant measles vaccine vectoring dengue protective antigens to be administered to young infants. I hypothesized that recombinant measles virus expressing Dengue 2 and 4 antigens would successfully induce neutralizing responses against DV2 and 4 and the vaccine cocktail of this recombinant measles can prime anti-flaviviral neutralizing immunity. For this dissertation, I generated and performed preclinical immune assessment for four novel Measles-Dengue (MV-DV) vaccine candidates. I generated four MVs expressing the pre membrane (prM) and full length or truncated (90%) forms of the major envelope (E) from DV2 and DV4. Two virus, MVvac2-DV2(prME)N and MVvac2-DV4(prME), expressed high levels of membrane associated full-length E, while the other two viruses, MVvac2-DV2(prMEsol)N and MVvac2-DV4(prMEsol)N, expressed and secreted truncated, soluble E protein to its extracellular environment. The last two vectored vaccines proved superior anti-dengue neutralizing responses comparing to its corresponding full length vectors. Remarkably, when MVvac2-DV2/4(prMEsol)N recombinant vaccines were combined, the vaccine cocktail was able to prime cross-neutralizing responses against DV 1 and the relatively distant 17D yellow fever virus attenuated strain. Thus, I identify a promising DV vaccination strategy, MVvac2-DV2/4(prMEsol)N, which can prime broad neutralizing immune responses by using only two of the four available DV serotypes. The current MV immunization scheme can be advantageus to prime broad anti-flaviviral neutralizing immunity status, which will be majorly boosted by subsequent chimeric Dengue vaccine approaches.

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Date Created
2016