Objective: Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is a major cause of acute hepatitis worldwide. The aim of the study is the development of plant expression system for the production of virus-like particles formed by HEV capsid and the characterization of their immunogenicity.
Results: Open reading frame (ORF) 2 encodes the viral capsid protein and possesses candidate for vaccine production. In this study, we used truncated genotype 3 HEV ORF 2 consisting of aa residues 110 to 610. The recombinant protein was expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana plants using the self-replicating potato virus X-based vector pEff up to 10% of the soluble protein fraction. The yield of HEV 110-610 after purification was 150-200 µg per 1 g of green leaf biomass. The recombinant protein formed nanosized virus-like particles. The immunization of mice with plant-produced HEV 110-610 protein induced high levels of HEV-specific serum antibodies.
Conclusions: HEV ORF 2 (110-610 aa) can be used as candidate for the development of a plant-produced vaccine against Hepatitis E.
Keywords: Hepatitis E virus; Plant biofactory; Potato virus X; Vaccine; Viral vector.