Transgenic carrot plants were developed expressing a designer polyepitope combining tandem repeats of a protective loop-forming B cell epitope (H386-400) of the measles virus hemagglutinin protein with a human promiscuous, measles-unrelated T cell epitope (tt830-844). Despite the sensitivity of the loop conformation to its molecular environment, proper folding was confirmed by conformation-dependent monoclonal antibodies. The antibodies also reacted with the boiled antigen in Western blot. Immunisation of mice peritoneally with carrot plant extracts induced high titers of antibodies that crossreacted strongly with the virus. Furthermore, the sera neutralised field isolates of different geographic origins and genotypes in a modified plaque reduction neutralisation assay performed on CD150-transfected Vero cells. These results demonstrate that transgenic carrot plants can serve as an efficient expression system to produce highly immunogenic, randomly assembled polyepitope antigens. The combined features of the selected epitopes and the potential of the plant expression system may pave the way towards new vaccines against measles.
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