Plant-produced antigen displaying virus-like particles evokes potent antibody responses against west nile virus in mice

Junyun He, Huafang Lai, Adrian Esqueda, Qiang Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In this study, we developed a hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg)-based virus-like particle (VLP) that displays the West Nile virus (WNV) Envelope protein domain III (wDIII) as a vaccine candidate for WNV. The HBcAg-wDIII fusion protein was quickly produced in Nicotiana benthamiana plants and reached a high expression level of approximately 1.2 mg of fusion protein per gram of leaf fresh weight within six days post gene infiltration. Electron microscopy and gradient centrifugation analysis indicated that the introduction of wDIII did not interfere with VLP formation and HBcAg-wDIII successfully assembled into VLPs. HBcAg-wDIII VLPs can be easily purified in large quantities from Nicotiana benthamiana leaves to >95% homogeneity. Further analysis revealed that the wDIII was displayed properly and demonstrated specific binding to an anti-wDIII monoclonal antibody that recognizes a conformational epitope of wDIII. Notably, HBcAg-wDIII VLPs were shown to be highly immunogenic and elicited potent humoral responses in mice with antigen-specific IgG titers equivalent to that of protective wDIII antigens in previous studies. Thus, our wDIII-based VLP vaccine offers an attractive option for developing effective, safe, and low-cost vaccines against WNV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number60
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Domain III (DIII)
  • Envelope protein
  • Plant-made vaccine
  • Vaccine
  • Virus-like particle (VLP)
  • West Nile virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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