The zoonotic Rift Valley fever virus affects livestock and humans in Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula. The economic impact of this pathogen due to livestock losses, as well as its relevance to public health, underscores the importance of developing effective and easily distributed vaccines. Vaccines that can be delivered orally are of particular interest. Here, we report the expression in transformed plants (Arabidopsis thaliana) of Rift Valley fever virus antigens. The antigens used in this study were the N protein and a deletion mutant of the Gn glycoprotein. Transformed lines were analysed for specific mRNA and protein content by RT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively. Furthermore, the plant-expressed antigens were evaluated for their immunogenicity in mice fed the transgenic plants. After oral intake of fresh transgenic plant material, a proportion of the mice elicited specific IgG antibody responses, as compared to the control animals that were fed wild-type plants and of which none sero-converted. Thus, we show that transgenic plants can be readily used to express and produce Rift Valley Fever virus proteins, and that the plants are immunogenic when given orally to mice. These are promising findings and provide a basis for further studies on edible plant vaccines against the Rift Valley fever virus.
2016. Vol. 127, 61-67 p.