Biopharmaceutical glycoproteins produced in plants carry N-glycans with plant-specific residues core α(1,3)-fucose and β(1,2)-xylose, which can significantly impact the activity, stability and immunogenicity of biopharmaceuticals. In this study, we have employed sequence-specific transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) to knock out two α(1,3)-fucosyltransferase (FucT) and the two β(1,2)-xylosyltransferase (XylT) genes within Nicotiana benthamiana to generate plants with improved capacity to produce glycoproteins devoid of plant-specific residues. Among plants regenerated from N. benthamiana protoplasts transformed with TALENs targeting either the FucT or XylT genes, 50% (80 of 160) and 73% (94 of 129) had mutations in at least one FucT or XylT allele, respectively. Among plants regenerated from protoplasts transformed with both TALEN pairs, 17% (18 of 105) had mutations in all four gene targets, and 3% (3 of 105) plants had mutations in all eight alleles comprising both gene families; these mutations were transmitted to the next generation. Endogenous proteins expressed in the complete knockout line had N-glycans that lacked β(1,2)-xylose and had a significant reduction in core α(1,3)-fucose levels (40% of wild type). A similar phenotype was observed in the N-glycans of a recombinant rituximab antibody transiently expressed in the homozygous mutant plants. More importantly, the most desirable glycoform, one lacking both core α(1,3)-fucose and β(1,2)-xylose residues, increased in the antibody from 2% when produced in the wild-type line to 55% in the mutant line. These results demonstrate the power of TALENs for multiplexed gene editing. Furthermore, the mutant N. benthamiana lines provide a valuable platform for producing highly potent biopharmaceutical products.
- Gene editing
- Plant-derived pharmaceuticals
- Transcription activator-like effector nucleases