Translational fusion of chloroplast-expressed human papillomavirus type 16 L1 capsid protein enhances antigen accumulation in transplastomic tobacco

Transgenic Res. 2008 Dec;17(6):1091-102. doi: 10.1007/s11248-008-9186-3. Epub 2008 May 20.


Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the causal agent of cervical cancer, one of the most common causes of death for women. The major capsid L1 protein self-assembles in Virus Like Particles (VLPs), which are highly immunogenic and suitable for vaccine production. In this study, a plastid transformation approach was assessed in order to produce a plant-based HPV-16 L1 vaccine. Transplastomic plants were obtained after transformation with vectors carrying a chimeric gene encoding the L1 protein either as the native viral (L1(v) gene) or a synthetic sequence optimized for expression in plant plastids (L1(pt) gene) under control of plastid expression signals. The L1 mRNA was detected in plastids and the L1 antigen accumulated up to 1.5% total leaf proteins only when vectors included the 5'-UTR and a short N-terminal coding segment (Downstream Box) of a plastid gene. The half-life of the engineered L1 protein, determined by pulse-chase experiments, is at least 8 h. Formation of immunogenic VLPs in chloroplasts was confirmed by capture ELISA assay using antibodies recognizing conformational epitopes and by electron microscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biochemical Phenomena*
  • Capsid / immunology
  • Capsid / metabolism
  • Capsid Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Capsid Proteins / genetics
  • Capsid Proteins / immunology*
  • Capsid Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism*
  • Chloroplasts / ultrastructure
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / biosynthesis*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / immunology*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / ultrastructure
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Plasmids
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / immunology
  • Tobacco / genetics
  • Tobacco / immunology*
  • Tobacco / metabolism
  • Tobacco / ultrastructure
  • Transgenes


  • Capsid Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • L1 protein, Human papillomavirus type 16