Cyanovirin-N produced in rice endosperm offers effective pre-exposure prophylaxis against HIV-1BaL infection in vitro
Krumpe, L. R. H.
Shattock, Robin J.
O’Keefe, Barry R.
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Cyanovirin-N (CV-N) is a lectin with potent antiviral activity that has been proposed as a component of microbicides for the prevention of infection with Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The production of protein-based microbicide components requires a platform that is sufficiently economical and scalable to meet the demands of the large at-risk population, particularly in resource poor developing countries. We, therefore, expressed CV-N in rice endosperm, because the dried seed is ideal for storage and transport and crude extracts could be prepared locally and used as a microbicide component without further purification. We found that crude extracts from rice seeds expressing up to 10 µg CV-N per gram dry seed weight showed dose-dependent gp120 binding activity, confirming that the protein was soluble, correctly folded and active. The recombinant lectin (OSCV-N) reduced the infectivity of HIV-1BaL (an R5 virus strain representing the majority of transmitted infections) by ~90 % but showed only weak neutralization activity against HIV-1RF (representative of X4 virus, rarely associated with transmission), suggesting it would be highly effective for pre-exposure prophylaxis against the vast majority of transmitted strains. Crude extracts expressing OSCV-N showed no toxicity towards human cells at working dilutions indicating that microbicide components produced in rice endosperm are safe for direct application as topical microbicides in humans.