Expression of hepatitis B surface antigen in transgenic plants

Hugh S. Mason, Dominic Man Kit Lam, Charles J. Arntzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

593 Scopus citations


Tobacco plants were genetically transformed with the gene encoding hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) linked to a nominally constitutive promoter. Enzyme-linked immunoassays using a monoclonal antibody directed against human serum-derived HBsAg revealed the presence of HBsAg in extracts of transformed leaves at levels that correlated with mRNA abundance. This suggests that there were no major inherent limitations of transcription or translation of this foreign gene in plants. Recombinant HBsAg was purified from transgenic plants by immunoaffinity chromatography and examined by electron microscopy. Spherical particles with an average diameter of 22 nm were observed in negatively stained preparations. Sedimentation of transgenic plant extracts in sucrose and cesium chloride density gradients showed that the recombinant HBsAg and human serum-derived HBsAg had similar physical properties. Because the HBsAg produced in transgenic plants is antigenically and physically similar to the HBsAg particles derived from human serum and recombinant yeast, which are used as vaccines, we conclude that transgenic plants hold promise as low-cost vaccine production systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11745-11749
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Foreign genes
  • Oral vaccine
  • Plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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