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Expression of the VP40 antigen from the Zaire ebolavirus in tobacco plants


Main conclusion

The plant cell is able to produce the VP40 antigen from the Zaire ebolavirus , retaining the antigenicity and the ability to induce immune responses in BALB/c mice.

The recent Ebola outbreak evidenced the need for having vaccines approved for human use. Herein we report the expression of the VP40 antigen from the Ebola virus as an initial effort in the development of a plant-made vaccine that could offer the advantages of being cheap and scalable, which is proposed to overcome the rapid need for having vaccines to deal with future outbreaks. Tobacco plants were transformed by stable DNA integration into the nuclear genome using the CaMV35S promoter and a signal peptide to access the endoplasmic reticulum, reaching accumulation levels up to 2.6 µg g−1 FW leaf tissues. The antigenicity of the plant-made VP40 antigen was evidenced by Western blot and an initial immunogenicity assessment in test animals that revealed the induction of immune responses in BALB/c mice following three weekly oral or subcutaneous immunizations at very low doses (125 and 25 ng, respectively) without accessory adjuvants. Therefore, this plant-based vaccination prototype is proposed as an attractive platform for the production of vaccines in the fight against Ebola virus disease outbreaks.

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Ebola virus disease


Ebola virus




Viral protein


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Current investigations from the group are supported by CONACYT/México (Grants INFR-2016-271182 and CB-256063 to SRM; and Grants CB-2010-01, 151818 and INFR-2014-01, 225924 to CA).

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Correspondence to Sergio Rosales-Mendoza.

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Monreal-Escalante, E., Ramos-Vega, A.A., Salazar-González, J.A. et al. Expression of the VP40 antigen from the Zaire ebolavirus in tobacco plants. Planta 246, 123–132 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-017-2689-5

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  • Antigen delivery system
  • Ebola
  • Humoral response
  • Molecular pharming
  • Oral vaccine
  • Subunit vaccine