Matching Items (7)
- All Subjects: Vaccines
- Creators: Mor, Tsafrir
- Status: Published
Plants are a promising upcoming platform for production of vaccine components and other desirable pharmaceutical proteins that can only, at present, be made in living systems. The unique soil microbe Agrobacterium tumefaciens can transfer DNA to plants very efficiently, essentially turning plants into factories capable of producing virtually any gene. While genetically modified bacteria have historically been used for producing useful biopharmaceuticals like human insulin, plants can assemble much more complicated proteins, like human antibodies, that bacterial systems cannot. As plants do not harbor human pathogens, they are also safer alternatives than animal cell cultures. Additionally, plants can be grown very cheaply, in massive quantities.
In my research, I have studied the genetic mechanisms that underlie gene expression, in order to improve plant-based biopharmaceutical production. To do this, inspiration was drawn from naturally-occurring gene regulatory mechanisms, especially those from plant viruses, which have evolved mechanisms to co-opt the plant cellular machinery to produce high levels of viral proteins. By testing, modifying, and combining genetic elements from diverse sources, an optimized expression system has been developed that allows very rapid production of vaccine components, monoclonal antibodies, and other biopharmaceuticals. To improve target gene expression while maintaining the health and function of the plants, I identified, studied, and modified 5’ untranslated regions, combined gene terminators, and a nuclear matrix attachment region. The replication mechanisms of a plant geminivirus were also studied, which lead to additional strategies to produce more toxic biopharmaceutical proteins. Finally, the mechanisms employed by a geminivirus to spread between cells were investigated. It was demonstrated that these movement mechanisms can be functionally transplanted into a separate genus of geminivirus, allowing modified virus-based gene expression vectors to be spread between neighboring plant cells. Additionally, my work helps shed light on the basic genetic mechanisms employed by all living organisms to control gene expression.
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.
Production of HIV-1 Virus-Like Particles in Nicotiana benthamiana Using an Enhanced Geminivirus-Based Expression Vector
Plant-made virus-like particles (VLPs), composed of HIV-1 Gag and deconstructed gp41 proteins, have been shown to be safe and immunogenic in mice. Here, we report the successful production of HIV-1 Gag/dgp41 VLPs in Nicotiana benthamiana, using an enhanced geminivirus-based expression vector. This novel vector results in unique expression kinetics, with peak protein accumulation and minimal necrosis achieved on day 4 post-infiltration. In comparing various purification strategies, it was determined that a 20% ammonium sulfate precipitation is an effective and efficient method for removing plant proteins and purifying the recombinant VLPs of interest. If further purification is required, this may be achieved through ultracentrifugation. VLPs are a useful platform for a variety of biomedical applications and developing the technology to efficiently produce VLPs in the plant expression system is of critical importance.
Plant-Expressed Vaccines: Enhancing the Recombinant Immune Complex Platform to Permit Rapid Vaccine Development Against Existing and Emerging Pathogens
Vaccines are one of the most effective ways of combating infectious diseases and developing vaccine platforms that can be used to produce vaccines can greatly assist in combating global public health threats. This dissertation focuses on the development and pre-clinical testing of vaccine platforms that are highly immunogenic, easily modifiable, economically viable to produce, and stable. These criteria are met by the recombinant immune complex (RIC) universal vaccine platform when produced in plants. The RIC platform is modeled after naturally occurring immune complexes that form when an antibody, a component of the immune system that recognizes protein structures or sequences, binds to its specific antigen, a molecule that causes an immune response. In the RIC platform, a well-characterized antibody is linked via its heavy chain, to an antigen tagged with the antibody-specific epitope. The RIC antibody binds to the epitope tags on other RIC molecules and forms highly immunogenic complexes. My research has primarily focused on the optimization of the RIC platform. First, I altered the RIC platform to enable an N-terminal antigenic fusion instead of the previous C-terminal fusion strategy. This allowed the platform to be used with antigens that require an accessible N-terminus. A mouse immunization study with a model antigen showed that the fusion location, either N-terminal or C-terminal, did not impact the immune response. Next, I studied a synergistic response that was seen upon co-delivery of RIC with virus-like particles (VLP) and showed that the synergistic response could be produced with either N-terminal or C-terminal RIC co-delivered with VLP. Since RICs are inherently insoluble due to their ability to form complexes, I also examined ways to increase RIC solubility by characterizing a panel of modified RICs and antibody-fusions. The outcome was the identification of a modified RIC that had increased solubility while retaining high immunogenicity. Finally, I modified the RIC platform to contain multiple antigenic insertion sites and explored the use of bioinformatic tools to guide the design of a broadly protective vaccine.
Display of Domain III from Dengue 2 Envelope Protein on HBsAg Virus-like Particles Vectored by Measles Virus
Dengue virus infects millions of people every year. Yet there is still no vaccine available to prevent it. Here we use a neutralizing epitope determinant on the dengue envelope (E) protein as an immunogen to be vectored by a measles virus (MV) vaccine. However the domain III (DIII) of the dengue 2 E protein is too small to be immunogenic by itself. In order for it to be displayed on a larger particle, it was inserted into the amino terminus of small hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg, S) coding sequence. To generate the recombinant MV vector and verify the efficiency of this concept, a reverse genetics system was used where the MV vectors express one or two additional transcription units to direct the assembly of hybrid HBsAg particles. Two types of recombinant measles virus were produced: pB(+)MVvac2(DIII-S,S)P and pB(+)MVvac2(DIII-S)N. Virus recovered from pB(+)MVvac2(DIII-S,S)P was viable. An ELISA assay was performed to demonstrate the expression and secretion of HBsAg. Supernatant from MVvac2(DIII-S,S)P infected cells confirmed that hybrid HBsAg-domain III particles with a density similar to traditional HBsAg particles were released. Characteristics of the subviral particle have been analyzed for the successful incorporation of domain III. The replication fitness of the recombinant MV was evaluated using multi-step growth kinetics and showed reduced replication fitness when compared to the parental strain MVvac2. This demonstrates that viral replication is hindered by the addition of the two inserts into MV genome. Further analysis of MVvac2(DIII-S)N is needed to justify immune response studies in a small animal model using both of the generated recombinant vectors.
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.
In the United States, Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7) is the most frequent cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and it is also the primary cause of acute renal failure in children. The most common route of the infection is ingestion of contaminated meat or dairy product originating from cattle or vegetables contaminated with bovine manure. Since cattle are the main reservoir for human infection with E. coli O157:H7, the reduction of intestinal colonization by these bacteria in cattle is the best approach to prevent human infections. Intimin is an outer membrane protein of E. coli O157:H7 that plays an important role in adhesion of the bacteria to the host cell. Hence, I proposed to express intimin protein in tomato plants to use it as a vaccine candidate to reduce or prevent intestinal colonization of cattle with E. coli O157:H7. I expressed His-tagged intimin protein in tomato plants and tested the purified plant-derived intimin as a vaccine candidate in animal trials. I demonstrated that mice immunized intranasally with purified tomato-derived intimin produced intimin-specific serum IgG1and IgG2a, as well as mucosal IgA. I further demonstrated that mice immunized with intimin significantly reduced time of the E. coli O157:H7 shedding in their feces after the challenge with these bacteria, as compared to unimmunized mice. Shiga toxin is the major virulence factor that contributes to HUS. Since Shiga toxin B subunit has an important role in the attachment of the toxin to its receptor, I fused intimin to Shiga toxin B subunit to create multivalent subunit vaccine and tested the effects upon immunization of mice with the B subunit when combined with intimin. His-tagged intimin, Shiga toxin B subunit, and Shiga toxin-intimin fusion proteins were expressed in E. coli and purified. I demonstrated that this multivalent fusion protein vaccine candidate elicited intimin- and Shiga toxin B-specific IgG1, IgG2a, and IgA antibodies in mice. I also showed a reduction in the duration of the bacterial shedding after the challenge compared to the control sham-immunized groups.