Document Type


Publication Date



Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


West Nile virus (WNV) has caused multiple global outbreaks with increased frequency of neuroinvasive disease in recent years. Despite many years of research, there are no licensed therapeutics or vaccines available for human use. One of the major impediments of vaccine development against WNV is the potential enhancement of infection by related flaviviruses in vaccinated subjects through the mechanism of antibody-dependent enhancement of infection (ADE). For instance, the recent finding of enhancement of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection by pre-exposure to WNV further complicates the development of WNV vaccines. Epidemics of WNV and the potential risk of ADE by current vaccine candidates demand the development of effective and safe vaccines. We have previously reported that the domain III (DIII) of the WNV envelope protein can be readily expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves, purified to homogeneity, and promote antigen-specific antibody response in mice. Herein, we further investigated the in vivo potency of a plant-made DIII (plant-DIII) in providing protective immunity against WNV infection. Furthermore, we examined if vaccination with plant-DIII would enhance the risk of a subsequent infection by ZIKV and Dengue virus (DENV). Plant-DIII vaccination evoked antigen-specific cellular immune responses as well as humoral responses. DIII-specific antibodies were neutralizing and the neutralization titersmet the threshold correlated with protective immunity by vaccines against multiple flaviviruses. Furthermore, passive administration of anti-plant DIII mouse serum provided full protection against a lethal challenge of WNV infection in mice. Notably, plant DIII-induced antibodies did not enhance ZIKV and DENV infection in Fc gamma receptor-expressing cells, addressing the concern of WNV vaccines in inducing cross-reactive antibodies and sensitizing subjects to subsequent infection by heterologous flavivirus. This study provides the first report of a WNV subunit vaccine that induces protective immunity, while circumventing induction of antibodies with enhancing activity for ZIKV and DENV infection.


This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Vaccine following peer review. The version of record is available online at: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.02.073.

Publication Title






First Page


Last Page


Find in your library

Included in

Biology Commons