Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 439–451 | Cite as

The use of plants for the production of therapeutic human peptides

  • Chiara Lico
  • Luca Santi
  • Richard M. Twyman
  • Mario Pezzotti
  • Linda AvesaniEmail author


Peptides have unique properties that make them useful drug candidates for diverse indications, including allergy, infectious disease and cancer. Some peptides are intrinsically bioactive, while others can be used to induce precise immune responses by defining a minimal immunogenic region. The limitations of peptides, such as metabolic instability, short half-life and low immunogenicity, can be addressed by strategies such as multimerization or fusion to carriers, to improve their pharmacological properties. The remaining major drawback is the cost of production using conventional chemical synthesis, which is also difficult to scale-up. Over the last 15 years, plants have been shown to produce bioactive and immunogenic peptides economically and with the potential for large-scale synthesis. The production of peptides in plants is usually achieved by the genetic fusion of the corresponding nucleotide sequence to that of a carrier protein, followed by stable nuclear or plastid transformation or transient expression using bacterial or viral vectors. Chimeric plant viruses or virus-like particles can also be used to display peptide antigens, allowing the production of polyvalent vaccine candidates. Here we review progress in the field of plant-derived peptides over the last 5 years, addressing new challenges for diverse pathologies.


Therapeutic peptide Molecular pharming Transgenic plants Chimeric plant virus Plant-derived vaccine 



This review was supported by the COST action ‘Molecular pharming: Plants as a Production Platform for High Value Proteins’ FA0804.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chiara Lico
    • 1
  • Luca Santi
    • 2
  • Richard M. Twyman
    • 3
  • Mario Pezzotti
    • 4
  • Linda Avesani
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratorio di BiotecnologieUnità Tecnica BIORADRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Agriculture, Forests, Nature and Energy (D.A.F.N.E.)University of TusciaViterboItaly
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  4. 4.Dipartimento di BiotecnologieUniversità degli Studi di VeronaVeronaItaly

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