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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,

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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Subunit vaccine to prevent Escherichia coli O157:H7 intestinal attachment and colonization

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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

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.

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  • 2010

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Optimization of a viral system to produce vaccines and other biopharmaceuticals in plants

Description

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

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.

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  • 2017

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A Plant Based Vaccine for Necrotic Enteritis in Chickens

Description

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,

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