Expression of Norwalk virus capsid protein in transgenic tobacco and potato and its oral immunogenicity in mice

Hugh S. Mason, Judith M. Ball, Jian Jian Shi, Xi Jiang, Mary K. Estes, Charles J. Arntzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

478 Scopus citations


Alternatives to cell culture systems for production of recombinant proteins could make very safe vaccines at a lower cost. We have used genetically engineered plants for expression of candidate vaccine antigens with the goal of using the edible plant organs for economical delivery of oral vaccines. Transgenic tobacco and potato plants were created that express the capsid protein of Norwalk virus, a calicivirus that causes epidemic acute gastroenteritis in humans. The capsid protein could be extracted from tobacco leaves in the form of 38-nm Norwalk virus-like particles. Recombinant Norwalk virus-like particle (rNV) was previously recovered when the same gene was expressed in recombinant baculovirus-infected insect cells. The capsid protein expressed in tobacco leaves and potato tubers cosedimented in sucrose gradients with insect cell-derived rNV and appeared identical to insect cell- derived rNV on immunoblots of SDS/polyacrylamide gels. The plant-expressed rNV was orally immunogenic in mice. Extracts of tobacco leaf expressing rNV were given to CD1 mice by garage, and the treated mice developed both serum IgG and secretory IgA specific for rNV. Furthermore, when potato tubers expressing rNV were fed directly to mice, they developed serum IgG specific for rNV. These results indicate the potential usefulness of plants for production and delivery of edible vaccines. This is an appropriate technology for developing countries where vaccines are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5335-5340
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 28 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • edible vaccine
  • foreign genes
  • plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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