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Expression of H5 hemagglutinin vaccine antigen in common duckweed (Lemna minor) protects against H5N1 high pathogenicity avian influenza virus challenge in immunized chickens

Kateri Bertran, Colleen Thomas, Xuan Guo, Michel Bublot, Nikki Pritchard, Jeffrey T. Regan, Kevin M. Cox, John R. Gasdaska, Lynn F. Dickey, Darrell R. Kapczynski, David E. Swayne
Vaccine 2015 v.33 no.30 pp. 3456-3462
Influenza A virus, Lemna minor, antibodies, antigens, aquatic plants, avian influenza, chickens, dosage, gene expression, hemagglutinins, humoral immunity, immunization, pathogenicity, strains, survival rate, synthetic genes, transgenic plants, vaccines, viral shedding, viruses
A synthetic hemagglutinin (HA) gene from the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus A/chicken/Indonesia/7/2003 (H5N1) (Indo/03) was expressed in aquatic plant Lemna minor (rLemna-HA). In Experiment 1, efficacy of rLemna-HA was tested on birds immunized with 0.2μg or 2.3μg HA and challenged with 106 mean chicken embryo infectious doses (EID50) of homologous virus strain. Both dosages of rLemna-HA conferred clinical protection and dramatically reduced viral shedding. Almost all the birds immunized with either dosage of rLemna-HA elicited HA antibody titers against Indo/03 antigen, suggesting an association between levels of anti-Indo/03 antibodies and protection. In Experiment 2, efficacy of rLemna-HA was tested on birds immunized with 0.9μg or 2.2μg HA and challenged with 106 EID50 of heterologous H5N1 virus strains A/chicken/Vietnam/NCVD-421/2010 (VN/10) or A/chicken/West Java/PWT-WIJ/2006 (PWT/06). Birds challenged with VN/10 exhibited 100% survival regardless of immunization dosage, while birds challenged with PWT/06 had 50% and 30% mortality at 0.9μg HA and 2.2μg HA, respectively. For each challenge virus, viral shedding titers from 2.2μg HA vaccinated birds were significantly lower than those from 0.9μg HA vaccinated birds, and titers from both immunized groups were in turn significantly lower than those from sham vaccinated birds. Even if immunized birds elicited HA titers against the vaccine antigen Indo/03, only the groups challenged with VN/10 developed humoral immunity against the challenge antigen. None (rLemna-HA 0.9μg HA) and 40% (rLemna-HA 2.2μg HA) of the immunized birds challenged with PWT/06 elicited pre-challenge antibody titers, respectively. In conclusion, Lemna-expressed HA demonstrated complete protective immunity against homologous challenge and suboptimal protection against heterologous challenge, the latter being similar to results from inactivated whole virus vaccines. Transgenic duckweed-derived HA could be a good alternative for producing high quality antigen for an injectable vaccine against H5N1 HPAI viruses.