2Research Institute of Influenza, Russian Federation Ministry of Health and Social Development, ul. Prof. Popova 15/17, 197376 St. Petersburg, Russia; fax: (812) 234-5973; E-mail: email@example.com
* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received August 31, 2011; Revision received September 28, 2011
Conventional influenza vaccines are based on a virus obtained in chicken embryos or its components. The high variability of the surface proteins of influenza virus, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, requires strain-specific vaccines matching the antigenic specificity of newly emerging virus strains to be developed. A recombinant vaccine based on a highly conservative influenza virus protein M2 fused to a nanosized carrier particle can be an attractive alternative to traditional vaccines. We have constructed a recombinant viral vector based on potato X virus that provides for expression in the Nicotiana benthamiana plants of a hybrid protein M2eHBc consisting of an extracellular domain of influenza virus M2 protein (M2e) fused to hepatitis B core antigen (HBc). This vector was introduced into plant cells by infiltrating leaves with agrobacteria carrying the viral vector. The hybrid protein M2eHBc was synthesized in the infected N. benthamiana plants in an amount reaching 1-2% of the total soluble protein and formed virus-like particles with the M2e peptide presented on the surface. Methods of isolation and purification of M2eHBc particles from plant producers were elaborated. Experiments on mice have shown a high immunogenicity of the plant-produced M2eHBc particles and their protective effect against lethal influenza challenge. The developed transient expression system can be used for production of M2e-based candidate influenza vaccine in plants.
KEY WORDS: influenza, vaccine, plant biofactories, M2 protein, HBc antigen, viral vector, virus-like particle