Application of the Human Hepatitis B Virus Core Antigen from Transgenic Tobacco Plants for Serological Diagnosis


Shinya Tsuda, Ibaraki Agricultural Center, Plant Biotechnology Institute, 3165-1 Ago. Iwama, Nishi-Ibarki, Ibaraki 319-0292 (Japan), E-Mail


Background and objectives: The aim was to produce HBcAg from plants more cheaply than can be done by other currently available means, and to apply such antigen to immunoassay procedures for pretransfusion testing of donor blood. Materials and methods: Transgenic Nicotiana tabacum cv. SR-1 plants expressing the human hepatitis B virus (HBV) core antigen (HBcAg) gene were generated by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. The recombinant product, called tHBcAg, can assemble itself into a spherical particle with a diameter of 25 to 30 nm, and can maintain two antigenic determinants of HBcAg, namely HBc/α and HBc/β. Partly purified tHBcAg was used in the hemagglutinationinhibition (HI) test, as routinely used by the Japanese Blood Center, to test a panel of 524 blood units taken from HBV-positive donors. Results: In the HI test, tHBcAg showed serologic properties comparable to that from Escherichia coli, the standard antigen used in the Japanese Blood Center. Conclusions: Transgenic plants can produce reagents for serologic testing and perhaps even such medical materials as oral vaccines.