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Vaccine. 2006 Apr 5;24(15):2935-43. Epub 2005 Dec 27.

Stable episomal expression system under control of a stress inducible promoter enhances the immunogenicity of Bacillus subtilis as a vector for antigen delivery.

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Department of Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences Institute, University of São Paulo, 05508-000 São Paulo, Brazil.


Bacillus subtilis has been successfully engineered to express heterologous antigens genetically fused to surface-exposed spore coat proteins as a vaccine vehicle endowed with remarkable heat resistance and probiotic effects for both humans and animals. Nonetheless, the immunogenicity of passenger antigens expressed by B. subtilis spores is low particularly following oral delivery. In this work, we describe a new episomal expression system promoting enhanced immunogenicity of heterologous antigens carried by B. subtilis strains, either in the form of spores or vegetative cells, following oral or parenteral delivery to mice. Based on a bi-directional replicating multicopy plasmid, the gene encoding the B subunit of the heat-labile toxin (LTB), produced by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) strains, was cloned under the control of the B. subtilis glucose starvation inducible (gsiB) gene promoter, active in vegetative cells submitted to heat and other stress conditions. The recombinant plasmid proved to be structurally and segregationally stable in both cells and spores under in vitro and in vivo conditions. Moreover, BALB/c mice orally immunized with B. subtilis cells or spores elicited enhanced anti-LTB systemic (serum IgG) and secreted (fecal IgA) antibody responses, thus, suggesting that antigen expression occurred during in vivo transit. These results indicate that the new episomal expression system may improve the performance of B. subtilis as a live orally-delivered vaccine carrier.

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