Plant-Produced Glycosylated and In Vivo Deglycosylated Receptor Binding Domain Proteins of SARS-CoV-2 Induce Potent Neutralizing Responses in Mice

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Mamedov T., Yuksel D., Ilgın M., Gurbuzaslan I., Gulec B., Yetiskin H., ...More

VIRUSES-BASEL, vol.13, no.8, 2021 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 13 Issue: 8
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.3390/v13081595
  • Title of Journal : VIRUSES-BASEL
  • Keywords: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, spike protein, receptor binding domain (RBD) vaccine, plant, transient expression system, SPIKE PROTEIN, IMMUNE-RESPONSES, SARS-COV, GLYCOPROTEIN, MUTATIONS, INFECTIONS, EXPRESSION, VACCINES, VIRUS, MERS


The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by SARS-CoV-2, has rapidly spread to more than 222 countries and has put global public health at high risk. The world urgently needs cost-effective and safe SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, antiviral, and therapeutic drugs to control it. In this study, we engineered the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein and produced it in the plant Nicotiana benthamiana in a glycosylated and deglycosylated form. Expression levels of both glycosylated (gRBD) and deglycosylated (dRBD) RBD were greater than 45 mg/kg fresh weight. The purification yields were 22 mg of pure protein/kg of plant biomass for gRBD and 20 mg for dRBD, which would be sufficient for commercialization of these vaccine candidates. The purified plant-produced RBD protein was recognized by an S protein-specific monoclonal antibody, demonstrating specific reactivity of the antibody to the plant-produced RBD proteins. The SARS-CoV-2 RBD showed specific binding to angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the SARS-CoV-2 receptor. In mice, the plant-produced RBD antigens elicited high titers of antibodies with a potent virus-neutralizing activity. To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating that mice immunized with plant-produced deglycosylated RBD form elicited high titer of RBD-specific antibodies with potent neutralizing activity against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Thus, obtained data support that plant-produced glycosylated and in vivo deglycosylated RBD antigens, developed in this study, are promising vaccine candidates for the prevention of COVID-19.