A DNA replicon system for rapid high-level production of virus-like particles in plants

Zhong Huang, Qiang Chen, Brooke Hjelm, Charles Arntzen, Hugh Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Recombinant virus-like particles (VLPs) represent a safe and effective vaccine strategy. We previously described a stable transgenic plant system for inexpensive production and oral delivery of VLP vaccines. However, the relatively low-level antigen accumulation and long-time frame to produce transgenic plants are the two major road-blocks in the practical development of plant-based VLP production. In this article, we describe the optimization of geminivirus-derived DNA replicon vectors for rapid, high-yield plant-based production of VLPs. Co-delivery of bean yellow dwarf virus (BeYDV)-derived vector and Rep/ RepA-supplying vector by agroinfiltration of Nicotiana benthamiana leaves resulted in efficient replicon amplification and robust protein production within 5 days. Co-expression of the P19 protein of tomato bush stunt virus, a gene silencing inhibitor, further enhanced VLP accumulation by stabilizing the mRNA. With this system, hepatitis B core antigen (HBc) and Norwalk virus capsid protein (NVCP) were produced at 0.80 and 0.34 mg/g leaf fresh weight, respectively. Sedimentation analysis and electron microscopy of transiently expressed antigens verified the efficient assembly of VLPs. Furthermore, a single replicon vector containing a built-in Rep/RepA cassette without P19 drove protein expression at similar levels as the three-component system. These results demonstrate the advantages of fast and high-level production of VLP-based vaccines using the BeYDV-derived DNA replicon system for transient expression in plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-714
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2009


  • Replicon
  • Transient expression
  • Vaccine
  • Viral vector
  • Virus-like particle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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