Transient expression systems for plant-derived biopharmaceuticals

Expert Rev Vaccines. 2010 Aug;9(8):859-76. doi: 10.1586/erv.10.85.


In the molecular farming area, transient expression approaches for pharmaceutical proteins production, mainly recombinant monoclonal antibodies and vaccines, were developed almost two decades ago and, to date, these systems basically depend on Agrobacterium-mediated delivery and virus expression machinery. We survey here the current state-of-the-art of this research field. Several vectors have been designed on the basis of DNA- and RNA-based plant virus genomes and viral vectors are used both as single- and multicomponent expression systems in different combinations depending on the protein of interest. The obvious advantages of these systems are ease of manipulation, speed, low cost and high yield of proteins. In addition, Agrobacterium-mediated expression also allows the production in plants of complex proteins assembled from subunits. Currently, the transient expression methods are preferential over any other transgenic system for the exploitation of large and unrestricted numbers of plants in a contained environment. By designing optimal constructs and related means of delivery into plant cells, the overall technology plan considers scenarios that envisage high yield of bioproducts and ease in monitoring the whole spectrum of upstream production, before entering good manufacturing practice facilities. In this way, plant-derived bioproducts show promise of high competitiveness towards classical eukaryotic cell factory systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / biosynthesis
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / genetics
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Biotechnology / methods*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Humans
  • Plant Viruses / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Rhizobium / genetics*
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical / methods*
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / biosynthesis
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / genetics
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Vaccines, Synthetic