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Nat Biotechnol. 1998 Oct;16(10):934-8.

A plant-based cholera toxin B subunit-insulin fusion protein protects against the development of autoimmune diabetes.

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Center for Molecular Biology and Gene Therapy, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University, CA 92350, USA.


Oral administration of disease-specific autoantigens can prevent or delay the onset of autoimmune disease symptoms. We have generated transgenic potato plants that synthesize human insulin, a major insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus autoantigen, at levels up to 0.05% of total soluble protein. To direct delivery of plant-synthesized insulin to the gut-associated lymphoid tissues, insulin was linked to the C-terminus of the cholera toxin B subunit (CTB). Transgenic potato tubers produced 0.1% of total soluble protein as the pentameric CTB-insulin fusion, which retained GM1-ganglioside binding affinity and native antigenicity of both CTB and insulin. Nonobese diabetic mice fed transformed potato tuber tissues containing microgram amounts of the CTB-insulin fusion protein showed a substantial reduction in pancreatic islet inflammation (insulitis), and a delay in the progression of clinical diabetes. Feeding transgenic potato tissues producing insulin or CTB protein alone did not provide a significant reduction in insulitis or diabetic symptoms. The experimental results indicate that food plants are feasible production and delivery systems for immunotolerization against this T cell-mediated autoimmune disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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