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Plant Biotechnol J ; 21(6): 1176-1190, 2023 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2244047


The recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has taught the world a costly lesson about the devastating consequences of viral disease outbreaks but also, the remarkable impact of vaccination in limiting life and economic losses. Vaccination against human Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), a major human pathogen affecting 290 million people worldwide, remains a key action towards viral hepatitis elimination by 2030. To meet this goal, the development of improved HBV antigens is critical to overcome non-responsiveness to standard vaccines based on the yeast-produced, small (S) envelope protein. We have recently shown that combining relevant immunogenic determinants of S and large (L) HBV proteins in chimeric antigens markedly enhances the anti-HBV immune response. However, the demand for cost-efficient, high-quality antigens remains challenging. This issue could be addressed by using plants as versatile and rapidly scalable protein production platforms. Moreover, the recent generation of plants lacking ß-1,2-xylosyltransferase and α-1,3-fucosyltransferase activities (FX-KO), by CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, enables production of proteins with "humanized" N-glycosylation. In this study, we investigated the impact of plant N-glycosylation on the immunogenic properties of a chimeric HBV S/L vaccine candidate produced in wild-type and FX-KO Nicotiana benthamiana. Prevention of ß-1,2-xylose and α-1,3-fucose attachment to the HBV antigen significantly increased the immune response in mice, as compared with the wild-type plant-produced counterpart. Notably, the antibodies triggered by the FX-KO-made antigen neutralized more efficiently both wild-type HBV and a clinically relevant vaccine escape mutant. Our study validates in premiere the glyco-engineered Nicotiana benthamiana as a substantially improved host for plant production of glycoprotein vaccines.

COVID-19 , Hepatitis B virus , Humans , Animals , Mice , Hepatitis B virus/genetics , Glycosylation , Tobacco/genetics , CRISPR-Cas Systems/genetics , COVID-19/genetics , SARS-CoV-2 , Hepatitis B Vaccines/genetics , Antibodies, Neutralizing , Hepatitis B Surface Antigens/genetics