Amplicon-plus targeting technology (APTT) for rapid production of a highly unstable vaccine protein in tobacco plants

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High-level expression of transgenes is essential for cost-effective production of valuable pharmaceutical proteins in plants. However, transgenic proteins often accumulate in plants at low levels. Low levels of protein accumulation can be caused by many factors including post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) and/or rapid turnover of the transgenic proteins. We have developed an Amplicon-plus Targeting Technology (APTT), by using novel combination of known techniques that appears to overcome both of these factors. By using this technology, we have successfully expressed the highly-labile L1 protein of canine oral papillomavirus (COPV L1) by infecting transgenic tobacco plants expressing a suppressor of post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) with a PVX amplicon carrying a gene encoding L1, and targeting the vaccine protein into the chloroplasts. Further, a scalable “wound-and-agrospray” inoculation method has been developed that will permit high-throughput Agrobacterium inoculation of Nicotiana tabacum, and a spray-only method (named “agrospray”) for use with N. benthamiana to allow large-scale application of this technology. The good yield and short interval from inoculation to harvest characteristic of APTT, combined with the potential for high-throughput achieved by use of the agrospray inoculation protocol, make this system a very promising technology for producing high value recombinant proteins, especially those known to be highly labile, in plants for a wide range of applications including producing vaccines against rapidly evolving pathogens and for the rapid response needed to meet bio-defense emergencies.

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