Departmental Papers (Dental)

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Journal Article

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Plant Biotechnology Journal





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Type I interferons (IFNs) inhibit viral replication and cell growth and enhance the immune response, and therefore have many clinical applications. IFN-α2b ranks third in world market use for a biopharmaceutical, behind only insulin and erythropoietin. The average annual cost of IFN-α2b for the treatment of hepatitis C infection is $26 000, and is therefore unavailable to the majority of patients in developing countries. Therefore, we expressed IFN-α2b in tobacco chloroplasts, and transgenic lines were grown in the field after obtaining United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) approval. Stable, site-specific integration of transgenes into chloroplast genomes and homoplasmy through several generations were confirmed. IFN-α2b levels reached up to 20% of total soluble protein, or 3 mg per gram of leaf (fresh weight). Transgenic IFN-α2b had similar in vitrobiological activity to commercially produced PEG-Intron™ when tested for its ability to protect cells against cytopathic viral replication in the vesicular stomatitis virus cytopathic effect (VSV CPE) assay and to inhibit early-stage human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. The antitumour and immunomodulating properties of IFN-α2b were also seen in vivo . Chloroplast-derived IFN-α2b increased the expression of major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I) on splenocytes and the total number of natural killer (NK) cells. Finally, IFN-α2b purified from chloroplast transgenic lines (cpIFN-α2b) protected mice from a highly metastatic tumour line. This demonstration of high levels of expression of IFN-α2b, transgene containment and biological activity akin to that of commercial preparations of IFN-α2b facilitated the first field production of a plant-derived human blood protein, a critical step towards human clinical trials and commercialization.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:Arlen, P. A., Falconer, R., Cherukumilli, S., Cole, A., Cole, A. M., Oishi, K. K., & Daniell, H. (2007). Field production and functional evaluation of chloroplast-derived interferon-α2b. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 5(4), 511–525., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving


At the time of publication, author Henry Daniell was affiliated with the University of Central Florida. Currently, he is a faculty member at the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania


antitumour, antiviral, gene containment, molecular ‘pharming’, plant-made cytokine

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Dentistry Commons



Date Posted: 01 March 2022

This document has been peer reviewed.