Plant-produced candidate countermeasures against emerging and reemerging infections and bioterror agents.
Vaccines produced in plant systems are safe and economical; however, the extensive application of plant-based vaccines is mainly hindered by low expression levels of heterologous proteins in plant systems. Here, we demonstrated that the post-transcriptional gene silencing suppressor p19 protein from tomato bushy stunt virus substantially enhanced the transient expression of recombinant SARS-CoV nucleocapsid (rN) protein in Nicotiana benthamiana. The rN protein in the agrobacteria-infiltrated plant leaf accumulated up to a concentration of 79 microg per g fresh leaf weight at 3 days post infiltration. BALB/c mice were intraperitoneally vaccinated with pre-treated plant extract emulsified in Freund's adjuvant. The rN protein-specific IgG in the mouse sera attained a titer about 1:1,800 following three doses of immunization, which suggested effective B-cell maturation and differentiation in mice. Antibodies of the subclasses IgG1 and IgG2a were abundantly present in the mouse sera. During vaccination of rN protein, the expression of IFN-gamma and IL-10 was evidently up-regulated in splenocytes at different time points, while the expression of IL-2 and IL-4 was not. Up to now, this is the first study that plant-expressed recombinant SARS-CoV N protein can induce strong humoral and cellular responses in mice.