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Industrially produced plant-made SARS-CoV-2 N protein shows its suitability for serological diagnosis of COVID-19

The serological diagnosis of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in circulating serum is one of the main evaluation approaches of the immune response in diseased or vaccinated people. Viral proteins, usually recombinant, are among the most important reagents for these diagnoses. The generalization of these serological assays is rapidly requiring the availability of large amounts of reasonably priced viral proteins, in order to cover an increasing demand, most likely sustained in time. Plants can be very appropriate biofactories for this production.

The present work shows the suitability of plant-made SARS-CoV-2 N protein for the serological diagnosis of antibodies. Its suitability has been checked through the analysis of over 400 samples of human sera from the region of Madrid, previously characterized at CISA-INIA and available for further analyses. The recombinant N protein was produced by the biotech company Agrenvec, originally an INIA spin-off company. CBGP has also been a very active partner in the design and coordination of the work, that was funded by the Madrid Regional Government through a grant whose PI is Dr. Fernando Ponz. The grant is also linked to the COVID funds provided by the Spanish Government to fight the disease. An additional value of protein N for serum antibody diagnosis is the possibility of differentiating diseased and vaccinated patients, since all vaccines so far approved are based on the S protein or its messenger RNA.

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Original Paper:

Williams, L., Jurado, S., Llorente, F., Romualdo, A., González, S., Saconne, A., Bronchalo, I., Martínez-Cortes, M., Pérez-Gómez, B., Ponz, F., Jiménez-Clavero, M.Á., Lunello, P. 2021. The C-Terminal Half of SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid Protein, Industrially Produced in Plants, Is Valid as Antigen in COVID-19 Serological Tests. Frontiers in Plant Science. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.699665

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