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Mol Genet Metab. 2005 Mar;84(3):278-88. Epub 2004 Dec 29.

Toxicity and adaptive immune response to intracellular transgenes delivered by helper-dependent vs. first generation adenoviral vectors.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The host immune response to intracellular transgenes delivered by helper-dependent (HDV) vs. first generation (FGV) adenoviral vectors has been relatively unstudied. Previous studies showed short-term correction of bovine and murine argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS) deficiency after first generation adenoviral-mediated liver gene therapy. To determine whether the host adaptive immune response against the intracellular transgene human ASS (hASS) contributed to loss of gene expression in this setting, the same vector (FGV-CAG-hASS) was injected into Rag-/- (immunodeficient) mice. As in wild-type C57BL/6 (B6) mice, Rag-/- mice also showed significant loss of hASS expression and vector by week 4 post-injection, with concomitant elevation of liver enzymes and disruption of liver architecture. Therefore, direct toxicity due to vector rather than adaptive immune response against hASS primarily accounted for loss of expression with FGVs. In contrast to hASS, beta-galactosidase is strongly immunogenic and activates the host adaptive immune response. Loss of transgene expression was observed in B6 mice with either a FGV or a HDV expressing beta-galactosidase. However, the drop in gene expression observed with the HDV was primarily due to the adaptive immune response, since both beta-galactosidase expression and vector genome were sustained in immunodeficient mice treated with HDV. As expected, with weakly immunogenic hASS, vector genome and hASS expression were sustained with a HDV in spite of ubiquitous expression of the transgene. Therefore, viral gene expression is a primary determinant of intermediate and chronic toxicities at day 3 and week 4 post-injection. However, even in the absence of viral gene expression, strongly immunogenic intracellular transgenes can stimulate clearance of transduced hepatocytes.

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