Helminth parasites control host-immune responses by secreting immunomodulatory glycoproteins. Clinical trials and mouse model studies have demonstrated the potential of helminths and helminth- derived glycoproteins for the treatment of immune-related diseases, like allergies and autoimmune diseases. Studies are however hampered by the limited availability of native parasite-derived proteins.
Moreover, recombinant protein production systems have thus far been unable to reconstitute helminth-like glycosylation essential for the functionality of helminth glycoproteins. Here we exploited the flexibility of the N-glycosylation machinery of plants to reconstruct two helminth glycoproteins, omega-1 and kappa-5, major constituents of immunomodulatory Schistosoma mansoni soluble egg antigens. Fine-tuning transient co-expression of specific glycosyltransferases in Nicotiana benthamiana enabled the synthesis of Lewis X (LeX) and LDN/LDN-F glycan motifs as found on natural omega-1 and kappa-5, respectively. In vitro and in vivo evaluation of the introduction of native LeX motifs on plant-produced omega-1 confirmed that LeX on omega-1 contributes to the glycoprotein’s Th2-inducing properties. These data indicate that mimicking the complex carbohydrate structures of helminths in plants is a promising strategy to allow targeted evaluation of therapeutic glycoproteins for the treatment of inflammatory disorders. In addition, our results offer perspectives for the development of effective anti-helminthic vaccines by reconstructing native parasite glycoprotein antigens.