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Plant Biotechnol J. 2018 Dec 21. doi: 10.1111/pbi.13060. [Epub ahead of print]

Cold chain and virus-free oral polio booster vaccine made in lettuce chloroplasts confers protection against all three poliovirus serotypes.

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Department of Biochemistry, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


To prevent vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis, WHO recommended withdrawal of Oral Polio Vaccine (Serotype-2) and a single dose of Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV). IPV however is expensive, requires cold chain, injections and offers limited intestinal mucosal immunity, essential to prevent polio reinfection in countries with open sewer system. To date, there is no virus-free and cold chain-free polio vaccine capable of inducing robust mucosal immunity. We report here a novel low-cost, cold chain/poliovirus-free, booster vaccine using poliovirus capsid protein (VP1, conserved in all serotypes) fused with cholera non-toxic B subunit (CTB) expressed in lettuce chloroplasts. PCR using unique primer sets confirmed site-specific integration of CTB-VP1 transgene cassettes. Absence of the native chloroplast genome in Southern blots confirmed homoplasmy. Codon optimization of the VP1 coding sequence enhanced its expression 9-15-fold in chloroplasts. GM1-ganglioside receptor-binding ELISA confirmed pentamer assembly of CTB-VP1 fusion protein, fulfilling a key requirement for oral antigen delivery through gut epithelium. Transmission Electron Microscope images and hydrodynamic radius analysis confirmed VP1-VLPs of 22.3 nm size. Mice primed with IPV and boosted three times with lyophilized plant cells expressing CTB-VP1co, formulated with plant-derived oral adjuvants, enhanced VP1-specific IgG1, VP1-IgA titres and neutralization (80%-100% seropositivity of Sabin-1, 2, 3). In contrast, IPV single dose resulted in <50% VP1-IgG1 and negligible VP1-IgA titres, poor neutralization and seropositivity (<20%, <40% Sabin 1,2). Mice orally boosted with CTB-VP1co, without IPV priming, failed to produce any protective neutralizing antibody. Because global population is receiving IPV single dose, booster vaccine free of poliovirus or cold chain offers a timely low-cost solution to eradicate polio.


Polio viral protein 1; bioencapsulation; human infectious diseases; lettuce chloroplast transformation; mucosal immunity; oral delivery

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