High-level systemic expression of conserved influenza epitope in plants on the surface of rod-shaped chimeric particles.

PMID 24755563


Recombinant viruses based on the cDNA copy of the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) genome carrying different versions of the conserved M2e epitope from influenza virus A cloned into the coat protein (CP) gene were obtained and partially characterized by our group previously; cysteines in the human consensus M2e sequence were changed to serine residues. This work intends to show some biological properties of these viruses following plant infections. Agroinfiltration experiments on Nicotiana benthamiana confirmed the efficient systemic expression of M2e peptides, and two point amino acid substitutions in recombinant CPs significantly influenced the symptoms and development of viral infections. Joint expression of RNA interference suppressor protein p19 from tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) did not affect the accumulation of CP-M2e-ser recombinant protein in non-inoculated leaves. RT-PCR analysis of RNA isolated from either infected leaves or purified TMV-M2e particles proved the genetic stability of TMV‑based viral vectors. Immunoelectron microscopy of crude plant extracts demonstrated that foreign epitopes are located on the surface of chimeric virions. The rod‑shaped geometry of plant-produced M2e epitopes is different from the icosahedral or helical filamentous arrangement of M2e antigens on the carrier virus-like particles (VLP) described earlier. Thereby, we created a simple and efficient system that employs agrobacteria and plant viral vectors in order to produce a candidate broad-spectrum fluxa0vaccine.