Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Production of F4 Fimbrial Adhesin in Plants: a Model for Oral Porcine Vaccine against Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli

Jussi Joensuu

Doctoral dissertation, May 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, perinnöllisyystieteen osasto and University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Applied Biology.

F4 fimbriae of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) are highly stable multimeric structures with a capacity to evoke mucosal immune responses. With these characters F4 offer a unique model system to study oral vaccination against ETEC-induced porcine postweaning diarrhea. Postweaning diarrhea is a major problem in piggeries worldwide and results in significant economic losses. No vaccine is currently available to protect weaned piglets against ETEC infections. Transgenic plants provide an economically feasible platform for large-scale production of vaccine antigens for animal health.

In this study, the capacity of transgenic plants to produce FaeG protein, the major structural subunit and adhesin of F4 fimbria, was evaluated. Using the model plant tobacco, the optimal subcellular location for FaeG accumulation was examined. Targeting of FaeG into chloroplasts offered a superior accumulation level of 1% of total soluble proteins (TSP) over the other investigated subcellular locations, namely, the endoplasmic reticulum and the apoplast. Moreover, we determined whether the FaeG protein, when isolated from its fimbrial background and produced in a plant cell, would retain the key properties of an oral vaccine, i.e. stability in gastrointestinal conditions, binding to porcine intestinal F4 receptors (F4R), and inhibition of the F4-possessing (F4+) ETEC attachment to F4R. The chloroplast-derived FaeG protein did show resistance against low pH and proteolysis in the simulated gastrointestinal conditions and was able to bind to the F4R, subsequently inhibiting the F4+ ETEC binding in a dose-dependent manner.

To investigate the oral immunogenicity of FaeG protein, the edible crop plant alfalfa was transformed with the chloroplast-targeting construct and equally to tobacco plants, a high-yield FaeG accumulation of 1% of TSP was obtained. A similar yield was also obtained in the seeds of barley, a valuable crop plant, when the FaeG-encoding gene was expressed under an endosperm-specific promoter and subcellularly targeted into the endoplasmic reticulum. Furthermore, desiccated alfalfa plants and barley grains were shown to have a capacity to store FaeG protein in a stable form for years. When the transgenic alfalfa plants were administred orally to weaned piglets, slight F4-specific systemic and mucosal immune responses were induced. Co-administration of the transgenic alfalfa and the mucosal adjuvant cholera toxin enhanced the F4-specific immune response; the duration and number of F4+ E. coli excretion following F4+ ETEC challenge were significantly reduced as compared with pigs that had received nontransgenic plant material. In conclusion, the results suggest that transgenic plants producing the FaeG subunit protein could be used for production and delivery of oral vaccines against porcine F4+ ETEC infections. The findings here thus present new approaches to develop the vaccination strategy against porcine postweaning diarrhea.

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Last updated 27.04.2006

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