O’Keefe, B. R., Vojdani, F., Buffa, V., Shattock, R. J., Montefiori, D. C., Bakke, J., … & Palmer, K. E. (2009). Scaleable manufacture of HIV-1 entry inhibitor griffithsin and validation of its safety and efficacy as a topical microbicide component. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(15), 6099-6104.
To prevent sexually transmitted HIV, the most desirable active ingredients of microbicides are antiretrovirals (ARVs) that directly target viral entry and avert infection at mucosal surfaces. However, most promising ARV entry inhibitors are biologicals, which are costly to manufacture and deliver to resource-poor areas where effective microbicides are urgently needed. Here, we report a manufacturing breakthrough for griffithsin (GRFT), one of the most potent HIV entry inhibitors. This red algal protein was produced in multigram quantities after extraction from Nicotiana benthamiana plants transduced with a tobacco mosaic virus vector expressing GRFT. Plant-produced GRFT (GRFT-P) was shown as active against HIV at picomolar concentrations, directly virucidal via binding to HIV envelope glycoproteins, and capable of blocking cell-to-cell HIV transmission. GRFT-P has broad-spectrum activity against HIV clades A, B, and C, with utility as a microbicide component for HIV prevention in established epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, China, and the industrialized West. Cognizant of the imperative that microbicides not induce epithelial damage or inflammatory responses, we also show that GRFT-P is nonirritating and noninflammatory in human cervical explants and in vivo in the rabbit vaginal irritation model. Moreover, GRFT-P is potently active in preventing infection of cervical explants by HIV-1 and has no mitogenic activity on cultured human lymphocytes.