Production of an active anti-CD20-hIL-2 immunocytokine in Nicotiana benthamiana

Carla Marusic, Flavia Novelli, Anna M. Salzano, Andrea Scaloni, Eugenio Benvenuto, Claudio Pioli, Marcello Donini

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Anti-CD20 murine or chimeric antibodies (Abs) have been used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) and other diseases characterized by overactive or dysfunctional B cells. Anti-CD20 Abs demonstrated to be effective in inducing regression of B-cell lymphomas, although in many cases patients relapse following treatment. A promising approach to improve the outcome of mAb therapy is the use of anti-CD20 antibodies to deliver cytokines to the tumour microenvironment. In particular, IL-2-based immunocytokines have shown enhanced antitumour activity in several preclinical studies. Here, we report on the engineering of an anti-CD20-human interleukin-2 (hIL-2) immunocytokine (2B8-Fc-hIL2) based on the C2B8 mAb (Rituximab) and the resulting ectopic expression in Nicotiana benthamiana. The scFv-Fc-engineered immunocytokine is fully assembled in plants with minor degradation products as assessed by SDS-PAGE and gel filtration. Purification yields using protein-A affinity chromatography were in the range of 15-20 mg/kg of fresh leaf weight (FW). Glycopeptide analysis confirmed the presence of a highly homogeneous plant-type glycosylation. 2B8-Fc-hIL2 and the cognate 2B8-Fc antibody, devoid of hIL-2, were assayed by flow cytometry on Daudi cells revealing a CD20 binding activity comparable to that of Rituximab and were effective in eliciting antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity of human PBMC versus Daudi cells, demonstrating their functional integrity. In 2B8-Fc-hIL2, IL-2 accessibility and biological activity were verified by flow cytometry and cell proliferation assay. To our knowledge, this is the first example of a recombinant immunocytokine based on the therapeutic Rituximab antibody scaffold, whose expression in plants may be a valuable tool for NHLs treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240 - 251
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science

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