Molecular farming of recombinant antibodies in plants
Antibodies represent a large proportion of therapeutic drugs currently in development. In most cases, they are produced in mammalian cell lines or transgenic animals because these have been shown to fold and assemble the proteins correctly and generate authentic glycosylation patterns. However, such expression systems are expensive, difficult to scale up and there are safety concerns due to potential contamination with pathogenic organisms or oncogenic DNA sequences. Plants represent an inexpensive, efficient and safe alternative for the production of recombinant antibodies. Research over the last 10 years has shown that plants can produce a variety of functional antibodies and there is now intense interest in scaling up production to commercial levels. In this review, we discuss the advantages of plants over traditional expression systems, describe how antibody expression in plants is achieved and optimized and then consider the practical issues concerning large-scale molecular farming in plants. The first plant-produced therapeutic antibodies are already in clinical trials, and, given the economic benefits of this production system, we are likely to see many more recombinant antibodies produced in this manner in the future.