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Expression of Mycobacterium leprae HSP65 in tobacco and its effectiveness as an oral treatment in adjuvant-induced arthritis


Transgenic plants are able to express molecules with antigenic properties. In recent years, this has led the pharmaceutical industry to use plants as alternative systems for the production of recombinant proteins. Plant-produced recominant proteins can have important applications in therapeutics, such as in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In this study, the mycobacterial HSP65 protein expressed in tobacco plants was found to be effective as a treatment for adjuvant-induced arthritis (AIA). We cloned the hsp65 gene from Mycobacterium leprae into plasmid pCAMBIA 2301 under the control of the double 35S promoter from cauliflower mosaic virus. Agrobacterium tumefaciens bearing the pChsp65 plasmid was used to transform tobacco plants. Incorporation of the hsp65 gene was confirmed by PCR, reverse transcription-PCR, histochemistry, and western blot analyses in several transgenic lines of tobacco plants. Oral treatment of AIA rats with the HSP65 protein allowed them to recover body weight and joint inflammation was reduced. Our results suggest a synergistic effect between the HSP65 expressed protein and metabolites presents in tobacco plants.

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Fig. 1
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Adjuvant-induced arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis


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We would like to thank Dr. T.P. Gillis from The National Hansen’s Disease Programs, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA for his kind donation of monoclonal antibody IIIE9 and Mr. Robert Butler from the National Institute for Medical Research, MRC, London, UK for his donation of recombinant Mycobacteriun leprae HSP65 protein.

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Correspondence to Rodolfo López-Gómez.

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Rodríguez-Narciso, C., Pérez-Tapia, M., Rangel-Cano, R.M. et al. Expression of Mycobacterium leprae HSP65 in tobacco and its effectiveness as an oral treatment in adjuvant-induced arthritis. Transgenic Res 20, 221–229 (2011).

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  • Transgenic plants
  • HSP65 protein
  • Tobacco
  • Adjuvant induced arthritis
  • Oral treatment
  • Rats