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Biotechnology (N Y). 1995 Dec;13(13):1484-7.

Expression of the rabies virus glycoprotein in transgenic tomatoes.

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Thomas Jefferson University, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


We have engineered tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill var. UC82b) to express a gene for the glycoprotein (G-protein), which coats the outer surface of the rabies virus. The recombinant constructs contained the G-protein gene from the ERA strain of rabies virus, including the signal peptide, under the control of the 35S promoter of cauliflower mosaic virus. Plants were transformed by Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation of cotyledons and tissue culture on selective media. PCR confirmed the presence of the G-protein gene in plants surviving selection. Northern blot analysis indicated that RNA of the appropriate molecular weight was produced in both leaves and fruit of the transgenic plants. The recombinant G-protein was immunoprecipitated and detected by Western blot from leaves and fruit using different antisera. The G-protein expressed in tomato appeared as two distinct bands with apparent molecular mass of 62 and 60 kDa as compared to the 66 kDa observed for G-protein from virus grown in BHK cells. Electron microscopy of leaf tissue using immunogold-labeling and antisera specific for rabies G-protein showed localization of the G-protein to the Golgi bodies, vesicles, plasmalemma and cell walls of vascular parenchyma cells. In light of our previous demonstration that orally administered rabies G-protein from the same ERA strain elicits protective immunity in animals, these transgenic plants should provide a valuable tool for the development of edible oral vaccines.

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