High-level expression of the HIV entry inhibitor griffithsin from the plastid genome and retention of biological activity in dried tobacco leaves.
Plant Mol Biol. 2018 Jul ;97(4-5):357-370. Epub 2018 Jun 9. PMID: 29948657
The potent anti-HIV microbicide griffithsin was expressed to high levels in tobacco chloroplasts, enabling efficient purification from both fresh and dried biomass, thus providing storable material for inexpensive production and scale-up on demand. The global HIV epidemic continues to grow, with 1.8 million new infections occurring per year. In the absence of a cure and an AIDS vaccine, there is a pressing need to prevent new infections in order to curb the disease. Topical microbicides that block viral entry into human cells can potentially prevent HIV infection. The antiviral lectin griffithsin has been identified as a highly potent inhibitor of HIV entry into human cells. Here we have explored the possibility to use transplastomic plants as an inexpensive production platform for griffithsin. We show that griffithsin accumulates in stably transformed tobacco chloroplasts to up to 5% of the total soluble protein of the plant. Griffithsin can be easily purified from leaf material and shows similarly high virus neutralization activity as griffithsin protein recombinantly expressed in bacteria. We also show that dried tobacco provides a storable source material for griffithsin purification, thus enabling quick scale-up of production on demand.