Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and recombinant protein sources with focus on plant sources: Updates, challenges and perspectives

Matthew J. McNulty, David Z. Silberstein, Brooks T. Kuhn, Hal S. Padgett, Somen Nandi, Karen A. McDonald, Carroll E. Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (A1ATD) is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by low plasma levels of A1AT, a serine protease inhibitor representing the most abundant circulating antiprotease normally present at plasma levels of 1–2 g/L. The dominant clinical manifestations include predispositions to early onset emphysema due to protease/antiprotease imbalance in distal lung parenchyma and liver disease largely due to unsecreted polymerized accumulations of misfolded mutant A1AT within the endoplasmic reticulum of hepatocytes. Since 1987, the only FDA licensed specific therapy for the emphysema component has been infusions of A1AT purified from pooled human plasma at the 2020 cost of up to US $200,000/year with the risk of intermittent shortages. In the past three decades various, potentially less expensive, recombinant forms of human A1AT have reached early stages of development, one of which is just reaching the stage of human clinical trials. The focus of this review is to update strategies for the treatment of the pulmonary component of A1ATD with some focus on perspectives for therapeutic production and regulatory approval of a recombinant product from plants. We review other competitive technologies for treating the lung disease manifestations of A1ATD, highlight strategies for the generation of data potentially helpful for securing FDA Investigational New Drug (IND) approval and present challenges in the selection of clinical trial strategies required for FDA licensing of a New Drug Approval (NDA) for this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-30
Number of pages21
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT)
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (A1ATD)
  • Gene therapy
  • Molecular pharming
  • Recombinant A1AT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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