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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Feb 9;107(6):2419-24. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914503107. Epub 2010 Feb 1.

Monoclonal antibody produced in plants efficiently treats West Nile virus infection in mice.

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  • 1The Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.


Over the past decade, West Nile virus (WNV) has spread to all 48 of the lower United States as well as to parts of Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America, with outbreaks of neuroinvasive disease occurring annually. At present, no therapeutic or vaccine is available for human use. Epidemics of WNV and other emerging infectious disease threats demand cost-efficient and scalable production technologies that can rapidly transfer effective therapeutics into the clinical setting. We have previously reported that Hu-E16, a humanized anti-WNV mAb, binds to a highly conserved epitope on the envelope protein, blocks viral fusion, and shows promising postexposure therapeutic activity. Herein, we generated a plant-derived Hu-E16 mAb that can be rapidly scaled up for commercial production. Plant Hu-E16 was expressed at high levels within 8 days of infiltration in Nicotiana benthamiana plants and retained high-affinity binding and potent neutralizing activity in vitro against WNV. A single dose of plant Hu-E16 protected mice against WNV-induced mortality even 4 days after infection at rates that were indistinguishable from mammalian-cell-produced Hu-E16. This study demonstrates the efficacy of a plant-produced mAb against a potentially lethal infection several days after exposure in an animal challenge model and provides a proof of principle for the development of plant-derived mAbs as therapy against emerging infectious diseases.

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