Greenhouse and field cultivations of antigen-expressing potatoes focusing on the variability in plant constituents and antigen expression

  • Heike Mikschofsky
  • Elena Heilmann
  • Jörg Schmidtke
  • Kerstin Schmidt
  • Udo Meyer
  • Peter Leinweber
  • Inge Broer


The production of plant-derived pharmaceuticals essentially requires stable concentrations of plant constituents, especially recombinant proteins; nonetheless, soil and seasonal variations might drastically interfere with this stability. In addition, variability might depend on the plant organ used for production. Therefore, we investigated the variability in plant constituents and antigen expression in potato plants under greenhouse and field growth conditions and in leaves compared to tubers. Using potatoes expressing VP60, the only structural capsid protein of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), CTB, the non-toxic B subunit (CTB) of the cholera toxin (CTA-CTB5) and the marker protein NPTII (neomycinphosphotransferase) as a model, we compare greenhouse and field production of potato-derived antigens. The influence of the production organ turned out to be transgene specific. In general, yield, plant quality and transgene expression levels in the field were higher than or similar to those observed in the greenhouse. The variation (CV) of major plant constituents and the amount of transgene-encoded protein was not influenced by the higher variation of soil properties observed in the field. Amazingly, for specific events, the variability in the model protein concentrations was often lower under field than under greenhouse conditions. The changes in gene expression under environmental stress conditions in the field observed in another event do not reduce the positive influence on variability since events like these should excluded from production. Hence, it can be concluded that for specific applications, field production of transgenic plants producing pharmaceuticals is superior to greenhouse production, even concerning the stability of transgene expression over different years. On the basis of our results, we expect equal or even higher expression levels with lower variability of recombinant pharmaceuticals in the field compared to greenhouse production combined with approximately 10 times higher tuber yield in the field.


VP60 CTB Molecular farming Field production Soil variability 



This work was supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Germany, projects 03WKS07A and 03WKS02: Innovative Regionale Wachstumskerne: BioOK – Entwicklung von Zulassungs- und Überwachungsverfahren für transgene Nutzpflanzen.

Supplementary material

11103_2011_9774_MOESM1_ESM.doc (116 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 115 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heike Mikschofsky
    • 1
  • Elena Heilmann
    • 2
  • Jörg Schmidtke
    • 3
  • Kerstin Schmidt
    • 3
  • Udo Meyer
    • 4
  • Peter Leinweber
    • 2
  • Inge Broer
    • 1
  1. 1.AgrobiotechnologieUniversität RostockRostockGermany
  2. 2.Universität RostockRostockGermany
  3. 3.BioMath GmbHGross LüsewitzGermany
  4. 4.Bioserv Analytik und Medizinprodukte GmbHRostockGermany

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