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1.  Improved Production Efficiency of Virus-Like Particles by the Baculovirus Expression Vector System 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0140039.
Vaccines based on virus-like particles (VLPs) have proven effective in humans and animals. In this regard, the baculovirus expression vector system (BEVS) is one of the technologies of choice to generate such highly immunogenic vaccines. The extended use of these vaccines for human and animal populations is constrained because of high production costs, therefore a significant improvement in productivity is crucial to ensure their commercial viability. Here we describe the use of the previously described baculovirus expression cassette, called TB, to model the production of two VLP-forming vaccine antigens in insect cells. Capsid proteins from porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2 Cap) and from the calicivirus that causes rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHDV VP60) were expressed in insect cells using baculoviruses genetically engineered with the TB expression cassette. Productivity was compared to that obtained using standard counterpart vectors expressing the same proteins under the control of the polyhedrin promoter. Our results demonstrate that the use of the TB expression cassette increased the production yields of these vaccine antigens by around 300% with respect to the standard vectors. The recombinant proteins produced by TB-modified vectors were fully functional, forming VLPs identical in size and shape to those generated by the standard baculoviruses, as determined by electron microscopy analysis. The use of the TB expression cassette implies a simple modification of the baculovirus vectors that significantly improves the cost efficiency of VLP-based vaccine production, thereby facilitating the commercial viability and broad application of these vaccines for human and animal health.
PMCID: PMC4601761  PMID: 26458221
2.  Significant Productivity Improvement of the Baculovirus Expression Vector System by Engineering a Novel Expression Cassette 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96562.
Here we describe the development of a baculovirus vector expression cassette containing rearranged baculovirus-derived genetic regulatory elements. This newly designed expression cassette conferred significant production improvements to the baculovirus expression vector system (BEVS), including prolonged cell integrity after infection, improved protein integrity, and around 4-fold increase in recombinant protein production yields in insect cells with respect to a standard baculovirus vector. The expression cassette consisted of a cDNA encoding for the baculovirus transactivation factors IE1 and IE0, expressed under the control of the polyhedrin promoter, and a homologous repeated transcription enhancer sequence operatively cis-linked to the p10 promoter or to chimeric promoters containing p10. The prolonged cell integrity observed in cells infected by baculoviruses harbouring the novel expression cassette reduced the characteristic proteolysis and aberrant forms frequently found in baculovirus-derived recombinant proteins. The new expression cassette developed here has the potential to significantly improve the productivity of the BEVS.
PMCID: PMC4019511  PMID: 24824596
3.  Head-to-Head Comparison of Three Vaccination Strategies Based on DNA and Raw Insect-Derived Recombinant Proteins against Leishmania 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51181.
Parasitic diseases plague billions of people among the poorest, killing millions annually, and causing additional millions of disability-adjusted life years lost. Leishmaniases affect more than 12 million people, with over 350 million people at risk. There is an urgent need for efficacious and cheap vaccines and treatments against visceral leishmaniasis (VL), its most severe form. Several vaccination strategies have been proposed but to date no head-to-head comparison was undertaken to assess which is the best in a clinical model of the disease. We simultaneously assayed three vaccination strategies against VL in the hamster model, using KMPII, TRYP, LACK, and PAPLE22 vaccine candidate antigens. Four groups of hamsters were immunized using the following approaches: 1) raw extracts of baculovirus-infected Trichoplusia ni larvae expressing individually one of the four recombinant proteins (PROT); 2) naked pVAX1 plasmids carrying the four genes individually (DNA); 3) a heterologous prime-boost (HPB) strategy involving DNA followed by PROT (DNA-PROT); and 4) a Control including empty pVAX1 plasmid followed by raw extract of wild-type baculovirus-infected T. ni larvae. Hamsters were challenged with L. infantum promastigotes and maintained for 20 weeks. While PROT vaccine was not protective, DNA vaccination achieved protection in spleen. Only DNA-PROT vaccination induced significant NO production by macrophages, accompanied by a significant parasitological protection in spleen and blood. Thus, the DNA-PROT strategy elicits strong immune responses and high parasitological protection in the clinical model of VL, better than its corresponding naked DNA or protein versions. Furthermore, we show that naked DNA coupled with raw recombinant proteins produced in insect larvae biofactories –the cheapest way of producing DNA-PROT vaccines– is a practical and cost-effective way for potential “off the shelf” supplying vaccines at very low prices for the protection against leishmaniases, and possibly against other parasitic diseases affecting the poorest of the poor.
PMCID: PMC3517401  PMID: 23236448
4.  Rotavirus A-specific single-domain antibodies produced in baculovirus-infected insect larvae are protective in vivo 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:59.
Single-domain antibodies (sdAbs), also known as nanobodies or VHHs, are characterized by high stability and solubility, thus maintaining the affinity and therapeutic value provided by conventional antibodies. Given these properties, VHHs offer a novel alternative to classical antibody approaches. To date, VHHs have been produced mainly in E. coli, yeast, plants and mammalian cells. To apply the single-domain antibodies as a preventive or therapeutic strategy to control rotavirus infections in developing countries (444,000 deaths in children under 5 years of age) has to be minimized their production costs.
Here we describe the highly efficient expression of functional VHHs by the Improved Baculovirus Expression System (IBES® technology), which uses a baculovirus expression vector in combination with Trichoplusia ni larvae as living biofactories. Two VHHs, named 3B2 and 2KD1, specific for the inner capsid protein VP6 of Group A rotavirus, were expressed in insect larvae. The IBES® technology achieved very high expression of 3B2 and 2KD1, reaching 2.62% and 3.63% of the total soluble protein obtained from larvae, respectively. These expression levels represent up to 257 mg/L of protein extract after insect processing (1 L extract represents about 125 g of insect biomass or about 375 insect larvae). Larva-derived antibodies were fully functional when tested in vitro and in vivo, neutralizing Group A rotaviruses and protecting offspring mice against rotavirus-induced diarrhea.
Our results open up the possibility of using insects as living biofactories (IBES® technology) for the cost-efficient production of these and other fully functional VHHs to be used for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, thereby eliminating concerns regarding the use of bacterial or mammalian cells. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that insects have been used as living biofactories to produce a VHH molecule.
PMCID: PMC3444942  PMID: 22953695
Single-domain antibodies; Therapeutic molecule; Neutralization; Rotavirus A; Insect; Baculovirus; IBES®technology
5.  Humoral and In Vivo Cellular Immunity against the Raw Insect-Derived Recombinant Leishmania infantum Antigens KMPII, TRYP, LACK, and papLe22 in Dogs from an Endemic Area 
Leishmania infantum causes visceral leishmaniasis, a severe zoonotic and systemic disease that is fatal if left untreated. Identification of the antigens involved in Leishmania-specific protective immune response is a research priority for the development of effective control measures. For this purpose, we evaluated, in 27 dogs from an enzootic zone, specific humoral and cellular immune response by delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) skin test both against total L. infantum antigen and the raw Trichoplusia ni insect-derived kinetoplastid membrane protein-11 (rKMPII), tryparedoxin peroxidase (rTRYP), Leishmania homologue of receptors for activated C kinase (rLACK), and 22-kDa potentially aggravating protein of Leishmania (rpapLe22) antigens from this parasite. rTRYP induced the highest number of positive DTH responses (55% of leishmanin skin test [LST]-positive dogs), showing that TRYP antigen is an important T cell immunogen, and it could be a promising vaccine candidate against this disease. When TRYP-DTH and KMPII-DTH tests were evaluated in parallel, 82% of LST-positive dogs were detected, suggesting that both antigens could be considered as components of a standardized DTH immunodiagnostic tool for dogs.
PMCID: PMC2990046  PMID: 21118936
6.  Dynamics and Predictive Potential of Antibodies against Insect-Derived Recombinant Leishmania infantum Proteins during Chemotherapy of Naturally Infected Dogs 
A predictive marker for the success treatment of canine leishmaniasis is required for the application of a more rational therapy protocol, which must improve the probability of cure and reduce Leishmania resistance to drugs. We investigated the dynamics and predictive value of antibodies against insect-derived recombinant L. infantum proteins rKMPII and rTRYP by using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with retrospective serum samples from 36 dogs during treatment of canine leishmaniasis. In the entire group of dogs, concentrations of antibodies against rKMPII and rTRYP significantly decreased earlier than concentrations of antibodies against crude total Leishmania antigen (one versus six months), which suggested that the dynamics of antibodies against recombinant proteins may be useful for assessing clinical improvement after treatment. Interestingly, decreases in antibody concentrations against rKMPII occurred earlier in disease-free dogs than in dogs that remain clinically ill one year after beginning of treatment, which suggested that these antibodies may be useful for predicting disease-free survival one year after the beginning of therapy against canine leishmaniasis.
PMCID: PMC2861386  PMID: 20439957

Results 1-6 (6)