Plant-based strategies aimed at expressing HIV antigens and neutralizing antibodies at high levels. Nef as a case study
The first evidence that plants represent a valid, safe and cost-effective alternative to traditional expression systems for large-scale production of antigens and antibodies was described more than 10 years ago. Since then, considerable improvements have been made to increase the yield of plant-produced proteins. These include the use of signal sequences to target proteins to different cellular compartments, plastid transformation to achieve high transgene dosage, codon usage optimization to boost gene expression, and protein fusions to improve recombinant protein stability and accumulation. Thus, several HIV/SIV antigens and neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies have recently been successfully expressed in plants by stable nuclear or plastid transformation, and by transient expression systems based on plant virus vectors or Agrobacterium-mediated infection. The current article gives an overview of plant expressed HIV antigens and antibodies and provides an account of the use of different strategies aimed at increasing the expression of the accessory multifunctional HIV-1 Nef protein in transgenic plants.