• Open Access

Comparative analysis of recombinant Human Papillomavirus 8 L1 production in plants by a variety of expression systems and purification methods


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Human papillomavirus 8 (HPV-8), one of the high-risk cutaneous papillomaviruses (cHPVs), is associated with epidermodysplasia verruciformis and nonmelanoma skin cancer in immuno-compromised individuals. Currently, no vaccines against cHPVs have been reported; however, recent studies on cross-neutralizing properties of their capsid proteins (CP) have fostered an interest in vaccine production against these viruses. We examined the potential of producing HPV-8 major CP L1 in Nicotiana benthamiana by agroinfiltration of different transient expression vectors: (i) the binary vector pBIN19 with or without silencing suppressor constructs, (ii) the nonreplicating Cowpea mosaic virus-derived expression vector pEAQ-HT and (iii) a replicating Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV)-based vector alone or with signal peptides. Although HPV-8 L1 was successfully expressed using pEAQ-HT and TMV, a 15-fold increase was obtained with pEAQ-HT. In contrast, no L1 protein could be immune detected using pBIN19 irrespective of whether silencing suppressors were coexpressed, although such constructs were required for identifying L1-specific transcripts. A fourfold yield increase in L1 expression was obtained when 22 C-terminal amino acids were deleted (L1ΔC22), possibly eliminating a nuclear localization signal. Electron microscopy showed that plant-made HPV-8 L1 proteins assembled in appropriate virus-like particles (VLPs) of T = 1 or T = 7 symmetry. Ultrathin sections of L1ΔC22-expressing cells revealed their accumulation in the cytoplasm in the form of VLPs or paracrystalline arrays. These results show for the first time the production and localization of HPV-8 L1 protein in planta and its assembly into VLPs representing promising candidate for potential vaccine production.