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Mol Cell Biol. 1982 Apr; 2(4): 426–436.
PMCID: PMC369806

Adaptation of a retrovirus as a eucaryotic vector transmitting the herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase gene.


We investigated the feasibility of using retroviruses as vectors for transferring DNA sequences into animal cells. The thymidine kinase (tk) gene of herpes simplex virus was chosen as a convenient model. The internal BamHI fragments of a DNA clone of Moloney leukemia virus (MLV) were replaced with a purified BamHI DNA segment containing the tk gene. Chimeric genomes were created carrying the tk insert in both orientations relative to the MLV sequence. Each was transfected into TK- cells along with MLV helper virus, and TK+ colonies were obtained by selection in the presence of hypoxanthine, aminopterin, and thymidine (HAT). Virus collected from TK+-transformed, MLV producer cells passed the TK+ phenotype to TK- cells. Nonproducer cells were isolated, and TK+ transducing virus was subsequently rescued from them. The chimeric virus showed single-hit kinetics in infections. Virion and cellular RNA and cellular DNA from infected cells were all shown to contain sequences which hybridized to both MLV- and tk-specific probes. The sizes of these sequences were consistent with those predicted for the chimeric virus. In all respects studied, the chimeric MLV-tk virus behaved like known replication-defective retroviruses. These experiments suggest great general applicability of retroviruses as eucaryotic vectors.

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