The human potential of a recombinant pandemic influenza vaccine produced in tobacco plants

Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2012 May;8(5):653-61. doi: 10.4161/hv.19503. Epub 2012 May 1.


Rapid production of influenza vaccine antigen is an important challenge when a new pandemic occurs. Production of recombinant antigens in plants is a quick, cost effective and up scalable new strategy for influenza vaccine production. In this study, we have characterized a recombinant influenza haemagglutinin antigen (HAC1) that was derived from the 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pdmH1N1) virus and expressed in tobacco plants. Volunteers vaccinated with the 2009 pdmH1N1 oil-in-water adjuvanted vaccine provided serum and lymphocyte samples that were used to study the immunogenic properties of the HAC1 antigen in vitro. By 7 d post vaccination, the vaccine fulfilled the licensing criteria for antibody responses to the HA detected by haemagglutination inhibition and single radial hemolysis. By ELISA and ELISPOT analysis we showed that HAC1 was recognized by specific serum antibodies and antibody secreting cells, respectively. We conducted a kinetic analysis and found a peak of serum HAC1 specific antibody response between day 14 and 21 post vaccination by ELISA. We also detected elevated production of IL-2 and IFNγ and low frequencies of CD4(+) T cells producing single or multiple Th1 cytokines after stimulating PBMCs (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) with the HAC1 antigen in vitro. This indicates that the antigen can interact with T cells, although confirming an effective adjuvant would be required to improve the T-cell stimulation of plant based vaccines. We conclude that the tobacco derived recombinant HAC1 antigen is a promising vaccine candidate recognized by both B- and T cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunospot Assay
  • Female
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus / genetics
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus / immunology*
  • Human Experimentation
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / genetics
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / immunology*
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Influenza Vaccines / genetics
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology*
  • Influenza Vaccines / isolation & purification
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotiana
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Time Factors
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / genetics
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / isolation & purification


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Cytokines
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Synthetic